In a double-overtime game that will likely be remembered for years to come, the Nuggets overcame a double-nickel performance by Damian Lillard to secure a crucial 147-140 Game 5 win over Portland.
Denver got off to a sizzling start, thanks in part to another boisterous, sellout crowd at Ball Arena. The team stormed to a 10-0 lead and held a 59-39 cushion at the 6:14 mark of the second quarter. Portland would remain relentless, however, going on a 23-6 run to close out the half.
Nikola Jokić got back to his best after a rare off night in Game 4, almost picking up a near triple-double with 38 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. Lillard had a historic night, hitting a playoff record 12 threes en route to a 55-point, 10-assist, and six boards night.
The Trail Blazers would take a six-point lead in the second half, but Denver wouldn’t let the visitors' surge deter them. Despite two game-tying threes at the end of the fourth quarter and first overtime by an incredible Lillard, it was the home team that would hang on to remain victorious.
The Nuggets now have a 3-2 series lead can now wrap up their first round matchup against the Trail Blazers in Game 6 (ALTITUDE, TNT, 6 p.m. MT).
MPJ bounces back
Seventy-two hours from having an uncharacteristic three-shot night, Michael Porter Jr. got back to doing what he does best: Scoring. The forward finished the contest with a double-double putting up 26 points, 12 rebounds, and three assists while shooting an incredible 76.9 percent.
Porter Jr. missed his opening shot but quickly reacted with an aggressive play moments later. The forward caught the rebound from Austin Rivers’ missed three-pointer and scored on a put-back. The moment got the 22-year-old going as he hit his next three attempts in the quarter to finish the opening 12 minutes with eight points. Porter Jr was also productive in the fourth quarter, where he had seven.
Porter Jr.’s biggest three came in the second overtime with 1:33 when Jokić passed out of a swarming Portland defense to find the second-year forward wide open on the left side. Porter Jr. swished with ease.
With injuries to Jamal Murray (season-ending) and Will Barton III, the Nuggets have been searching for a third scorer to complement their two remaining stars in Jokić and Porter Jr. They found a third, fourth and fifth option Tuesday.
The rise in production from Monte Morris (28 points), Austin Rivers (18), Aaron Gordon (14) was a significant boost for Denver against a Portland team that was firing on all cylinders offensively.
The play of Morris was particularly impactful in Game 5. The Nuggets guard, who recently returned from a knee injury, has been quietly solid in the first round – averaging 10.5 points, 5.3 assists off the bench while shooting 44.7 percent. Yet, with Murray’s injury, the Nuggets needed a big night from their top reserve and got it. Morris was huge in the second half, scoring 14 points, and got his team going in OT with a three at the start of the quarter.
The little things matter
This was Nuggets basketball as the team used its advantage in size to impose its will. The biggest area where they were able to make an impact was on the boards.
Denver outrebounded 52-45 and had 23 second-chance points to Portland’s nine. After being outscored in the paint in Games 3 and 4, the Nuggets refused to let that happen – tying their opponents with 42 points in the paint.
The Nuggets also excelled in getting to the line, going 32 times, and hitting 27. The group also dropped 33 dimes on the night as opposed to Portland’s 25.