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Damian Lillard, Blazers Even Series with Game 4 Rout over Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 29, 2021

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, left, hits a shot over Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo, center, and center Nikola Jokic, right, during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Portland, Ore., Saturday, May 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
AP Photo/Steve Dykes

The Portland Trail Blazers outscored the visiting Denver Nuggets 36-19 in the third quarter en route to a 115-95 blowout in Game 4 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series on Saturday at Moda Center. With the win, Portland tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

Trail Blazers forward Norman Powell's 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting led all scorers. CJ McCollum added 21 points and eight assists, and Jusuf Nurkic pitched in 17 points and six rebounds.

Damian Lillard only shot 1-of-10 and finished with 10 points, but he was excellent in all other aspects of the game. He dished 10 assists, grabbed eight rebounds and hit all seven of his free throws as Portland outscored Denver by 33 with him on the floor.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic led his team with 16 points.


Notable Performances

Blazers F Norman Powell: 29 points, 2 blocks

Blazers SG CJ McCollum: 21 points, 8 assists

Blazers PG Damian Lillard: 10 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds

Nuggets C Nikola Jokic: 16 points, 9 rebounds

Nuggets PG Facundo Campazzo: 12 points, 7 assists, 2 steals

Nuggets G Monte Morris: 12 points, 4 assists


Trail Blazers Run Denver Out of Town With Dominant 3rd Quarter

The Trail Blazers were well in control of this one before starting the second half.

Portland never trailed at all on Saturday, leading 33-25 after one quarter and 57-47 at halftime.

In the third quarter, though, the Blazers turned on the after-burners.

Portland started the half on a 10-0 run to give itself a 20-point edge. Robert Covington's corner three-pointer off a Lillard assist capped the rally:

Portland Trail Blazers @trailblazers

😤😤😤 @Holla_At_Rob33 | #RipCity pic.twitter.com/bhx2z6h9is

Powell scored 10 third-quarter points. His last bucket in the frame occurred after he got behind the Denver defense to put Portland up 22:

Portland Trail Blazers @trailblazers

N 🔥 R M A N pic.twitter.com/MbpzuaYLJn

Ex-NBA center and ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins gave Powell credit for his defensive effort too:

Kendrick Perkins @KendrickPerkins

Michael Malone had to sub MPJ out the game! Norman Powell was giving him hell in the cell out there aka Buckets and Bully Ball! Oh, and I see big Nurkic got the damn memo. Carry on...

Blazer fans at Moda Center also recognized Powell's work, per Orlando Sanchez of KGW TV:

Orlando Sanchez @orlandokgw

Fans chanting Norman Powell as he checks out of the game<br><br>Powell leading Portland with 29 points on 11-15 shooting#RipCity | @npowell2404 pic.twitter.com/4BpebHElXE

The Blazers' attack was relentless outside Powell, too, with Carmelo Anthony getting in on the action:

Portland Trail Blazers @trailblazers

LIKE FINE WINE 🍷 pic.twitter.com/Wsh8n7zAGu

It was a phenomenal response from the Trail Blazers, which came close to pulling off an epic late comeback against Denver in Game 3 before losing at home 120-115.

Now, the Blazers will look to steal Game 5 in Denver in the hopes of closing out the first round back in Portland for Game 6.


Everything Goes Wrong for Denver in Brutal Loss

Denver shot 34.0 percent from the field and 13-of-44 (29.5 percent) from three-point range on an afternoon that no Nuggets player fared well, including Jokic, the likely NBA MVP. Jokic went 7-of-18 from the floor and had more turnovers (two) than assists (one).

The Blazers also outscored Denver by 32 points with the superstar on the floor.

Harrison Wind @HarrisonWind

Nikola Jokic will finish as a -32 tonight in 27 minutes.<br><br>It's the worst +/- he's posted in his career.

NBA writer T.J. McBride and Adam Mares of DNVR Sports also gave takes on Jokic, who appeared fatigued:

T.J. McBride @TJMcBrideNBA

Jokic is completely exhausted and Portland can’t miss. Pretty easy way for this lead to balloon the way it was.

Adam Mares @Adam_Mares

Jokic is moving in quicksand right now and every shot is short.

Jokic has been incredible this season as he's assumed more responsibilities after point guard Jamal Murray was lost for the season with a torn left ACL. His 15.6 win shares, per Basketball-Reference, were No. 1 in the NBA by a long shot during the regular season (Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert was second with 11.3).

But this was not his day, and the same went for his teammates.

Denver never led with Portland controlling the action from start to finish. Nick Kosmider of The Athletic noted how the Nuggets were running uphill from the jump:

Nick Kosmider @NickKosmider

Nuggets were never ready from the start today. You could tell in Michael Malone’s comments the past two days he was concerned about matching Portland’s desperation. For all Denver has done in last three postseasons, it has never had a two-game lead in a series.

Elsewhere, Michael Porter Jr., who entered the game averaging 19.0 points a night, hit just one three-pointer and finished the afternoon 1-of-3 from the field. Aaron Gordon had just six points.

The good news for the Nuggets is they still have home-court advantage as the series shifts back to Denver for Game 5.

Coming back from this brutal loss could be a tall order, though, as Portland simply crushed Denver to swing the momentum of the series.


What's Next?

Denver will host Game 5 at Ball Arena on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. Game 6 will be Thursday in Portland at a to-be-determined time.