After a frustrating Game 3 gave the visitors a 2-1 series lead in Portland, the Trail Blazers were back in action to try and even the tie on Saturday afternoon.
They did so in impressive fashion. It was a team effort that paid massive dividends on both ends. Powell’s aggression, CJ’s shotmaking, and Nurk’s controlled chaos were the biggest differences from Game 3, but some timely shots from Melo and only 16 from Jokic certainly helped.
Portland leapt out to a 23-13 lead in the first quarter behind 10 quick points from Norman Powell. Powell, who struggled in Game 3, had a pair of quick layups and canned two threes to give the Blazers an early edge.
Jusuf Nurkic was also winning the early battle against his former teammate, Nikola Jokic. The likely MVP started 1-for-7 from the field, while Nurk began 4/4. Most importantly, the Bosnian Beast was able to match Jokic for minutes while committing only one foul in the first quarter.
Denver’s second rotation cut Portland’s once-double-digit lead to two—led by five points in two possessions from JaMychal Green—but Portland’s starters would retake the advantage and lead 57-47 at the half.
While Dame’s midrange game was not paying dividends, Portland’s defense was. Holding Jokic to 11 points on 12 shots was a huge advantage, especially given the 13 points from both Nurk and Norm.
Powell would continue his impressive performance to start the third, and Portland’s lead swelled to 21 at the 9:05 mark. Jokic was still struggling as well, and although Dame’s shots weren’t falling, CJ picked up the slack offensively.
In Game 3, Carmelo Anthony hit a clutch three to tie the game with about five minutes remaining. On Saturday, he swished his second triple to give Portland a 30-point advantage: 88-58 with 2:23 left in the third. CJ McCollum almost maintained the lead, but the buzzer beat his three at the end of the quarter.
Nassir Little, Derrick Jones Jr., and CJ Elleby got their first Playoff minutes as they checked in with under five to go and an insurmountable lead. Keljin Blevins and TJ Leaf would follow soon after.
Little’s rejection of JaVale McGee was the icing on the cake for a dominant Portland performance, a much-needed 30-point victory for a team that struggled in their last two performances.
Game 5 on Tuesday will obviously be crucial, but this was a great way to tie the series at two games apiece.