PREVIEW: Denver Nuggets out to eliminate Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

After an epic game that included one of the best individual performances in NBA playoff history, the Denver Nuggets will try to close out their Western Conference first-round series against the host Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night in Game 6.

Despite Damian Lillard’s heroic attempt with 55 points for the Blazers in Game 5, the Nuggets have a 3-2 lead in the series following a 147-140 double-overtime home win on Tuesday.

Lillard set the playoff record for most made three-pointers with 12, surpassing Klay Thompson’s 11 on May 28, 2016, against Oklahoma City.

Lillard’s scoring output was also a Portland franchise record for a playoff game.

“It’s a shame we wasted one of the all-time best performances by not being more supportive of him,” said CJ McCollum, who turned the ball over by stepping out of bounds with 9.1 seconds left in the second overtime just as Lillard was setting up for a potential game-tying triple.

Lillard is averaging 35.6 points and 9.6 assists and shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range while making 6.4 attempts per game from distance during the series.

And that’s after bouncing back from a dismal 1-for-10 shooting performance (1 of 6 from 3-point range) in Game 4 – a game which the Blazers won.

“At this point, all that matters is we can’t lose another game in the series,” Lillard said. “If I don’t put it behind me, and hold onto it, it’s going to get in the way of what we need to do in the next one.”

Lillard scored 17 of Portland’s combined 19 points in both overtimes but was held scoreless for the final 3:47 of the game and didn’t take a shot over the final 3:02.

Denver led by as many as 22 in the first half before the Blazers stormed back with a 30-11 run to close the gap to 65-62 by halftime.

Lillard made 3-pointers to keep the game going at the end of regulation and the first overtime.

But the Nuggets scored 26 combined points in the extra periods and were led once again by MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, who came up one assist short of a triple-double with 38 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

“We won and lost that game so many times before ultimately winning it,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We never got down. Every time they threw a haymaker and got us down on the canvas, we got up and were able to pull it out in the end.”

Jokic is averaging 32.4 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game in the series with double-doubles in three of the five games so far.

Michael Porter Jr. provided the decisive points on a 3-pointer of his own with 1:33 remaining in the second overtime and finished with 26 points, while Monte Morris scored 28 points off the Nuggets bench.

Morris’ two free throws with 8.0 seconds remaining, followed by Shaquille Harrison’s two free throws with 3.8 seconds left, sealed the outcome.

“It was 0-0 and we knew there was only 5 minutes,” Porter said about staying cool under pressure even as Lillard kept extending the game with his long-distance shooting. “We knew we couldn’t hang our heads. It was a big game and we needed it.”

Will Barton (right hamstring strain), PJ Dozier (right adductor strain) and Jamal Murray (left ACL surgery) remain the only injuries for Denver while Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture) is out for Portland.

–Field Level Media