PORTLAND, Oregon: Nikola Jokic had 36 points and the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers in six games with a 126-115 victory Thursday night.
Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points, including 22 in the opening quarter, for the third-seeded Nuggets. They await the outcome of the first-round series between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.
Denver advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the third straight season.
Damian Lillard finished with 28 points and 13 assists for the sixth-seeded Blazers. They led by 14 points in the third quarter but couldn’t stave off elimination.
Monte Morris hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close Denver to 101-98 heading into the last period. Jokic hit a 3-pointer to put Denver ahead 108-106 and Denver stretched it to 117-108 on Austin Rivers’ 3 with 3:52 left.
Portland tired to catch up, getting to 121-115 on CJ McCollum’s layup, but Aaron Gordon hit a 3-pointer that all but sealed it for Denver with less than a minute to go.
The Nuggets took a 3-2 lead in the series with a 147-140 double overtime victory in Denver on Tuesday night. It spoiled Lillard’s epic playoff performance: He had 55 points, including 12 3-pointers, and 10 assists. It was the most 3-pointers ever in a playoff game.
The Blazers needed big man Jusuf Nurkic to stay out of foul trouble. Tasked with defending Jokic, he fouled out in three of the first five games.
Nurkic didn’t have a foul in the first half, but then had four quick fouls in the third quarter and had to head to the bench.
Porter had six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone, tying an NBA playoff record for most 3s a quarter.
Lillard hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 68-61 lead at the half. He raised his arms to encourage the crowd as he headed off the floor.
Damian Lillard was honored before the game as the NBA’s Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award. The league’s players vote to recognize “selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.” Carmelo Anthony and CJ McCollum presented Lillard with the award.
Nuggets: Jamal Murray was in Portland for the game. He had stayed back in Denver for the previous two away playoff games because of his torn ACL. ... Nuggets coach Michael Malone said his team had a Game 7 mindset going into the game, noting that Portland had 602 points through the first five games, compared to Denver’s 599.
Trail Blazers: Errick McCollum was at the game to watch his brother play in person for the first time in four years. Errick McCollum plays pro basketball for BC Khimki in Russia. ... Lillard went into the game needing two 3-pointers for most ever in a playoff series, besting Donovan Mitchell’s record 33 3s last year. He got a pair in the opening quarter.