Damian Lillard, Blazers Beat Nikola Jokic, Nuggets in Game 1 of NBA Playoff SeriesMay 23, 2021
Damian Lillard's 34 points and 13 assists propelled the Portland Trail Blazers to a 123-109 road win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series at Ball Arena.
Portland outscored Denver 38-25 in the third quarter to take a 96-86 lead into the fourth. Denver cut the edge to four points in the fourth on two occasions but could not come any closer.
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic's 34 points and 16 boards led Denver, whose bench combined for only 20 points.
Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard: 34 points, 13 assists
Trail Blazers SG CJ McCollum: 21 points, 6 rebounds
Trail Blazers F Carmelo Anthony: 18 points
Nuggets C Nikola Jokic: 34 points, 16 rebounds
Nuggets SF Michael Porter Jr.: 25 points, 9 rebounds
Nuggets PF Aaron Gordon: 16 points, 9 rebounds
Lillard Leads Portland To Win
It was Dame Time in Denver on Saturday as Lillard started Portland's playoff run on the right foot.
Lillard's connection with Carmelo Anthony was working early, with the point guard drawing in the defense before kicking it out to the 10-time All-Star for his second straight three in the first quarter:
Anthony caught fire, scoring 12 points in a 2:21 span and hitting another three following a Lillard dish:
Lillard continued to get the rest of his teammates involved, slicing a pass to Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic to slash Denver's lead to three in the third quarter:
Sometimes, Lillard took care of business himself, like when he took on Denver forward Michael Porter Jr. and nailed a jumper during a late third-quarter run:
Or when he stuck a deep three despite a double team to cap a 8-0 run:
That may not have even been his most impressive bucket of the night, as he drilled a quick, off-balance three to give Portland a 113-103 edge:
New York Times bestselling author Shea Serrano posited a question after watching Lillard's dominance:
In the end, Lillard's dominance was simply too much for Denver to overcome in Game 1.
Jokic Stars in Defeat
It was a rough second half for the Nuggets. They sorely missed the clutch scoring and play of point guard Jamal Murray, who suffered a torn ACL. Denver went just 11-of-36 from three-point range, while Portland shot 19-of-40 from deep.
Despite the three-point differential and Lillard's excellent night, Jokic kept the shorthanded Nuggets in this game, delivering a dazzling array of moves en route to stuffing the star sheet.
Jokic's patented Sombor Shuffle move made a first-quarter appearance, with the NBA MVP frontrunner hitting a jumper over Blazers center Enes Kanter for a early four-point lead:
That was one of many excellent first-half plays from Jokic, who had 22 points and seven dimes by halftime:
Jokic kept it up in the third thanks in part to this spin move:
However, Denver faltered down the stretch, with Portland going on an 11-0 run after Jokic hit a turnaround jumper. The Blazers got hot, while Denver couldn't muster much offense en route to defeat.
Jokic was still great, and ex-Nugget great and Basketball Hall of Famer Alex English approves:
He's certainly capable of willing his team to victory on any given night. That wasn't the case Saturday, but the 26-year-old delivered another MVP-like performance nevertheless.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven matchup will tip off at 10 p.m. ET Monday in Denver.