The Denver Nuggets have grown fairly accustomed to enjoying seven-game sequence. However for as soon as they did not have to go the gap, as they closed out the Portland Path Blazers in six with a 126-115 win on Thursday.
“I like our group. I like each participant in that locker room, one via seventeen,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone stated. “We proceed to search out methods to win. Final 12 months, this 12 months, folks do not realize what we’re lacking proper now with accidents, so I could not be extra pleased with a gaggle of gamers that I really love teaching each single day.”
The Nuggets did it on the highway, avoiding any clutch-time magic from Damian Lillard by holding the Blazers to simply 14 factors within the fourth quarter. The Nuggets felt the urgency going into Recreation 6 of this first-round sequence to get it finished prior to later, figuring out they misplaced a Recreation 7 on their residence ground to the Blazers two seasons in the past.
“No one is attempting to see Damian Lillard, one of many clutchest gamers ever, in a Recreation 7,” Nuggets ahead Michael Porter Jr. stated.
It has been a outstanding run for the Nuggets, discovering solutions in unlikely locations at each flip as they’ve navigated the previous few months with out two of their finest gamers, Jamal Murray and Will Barton, who’re each out injured. They, in fact, have leaned on the presumptive MVP, Nikola Jokic, who was good as soon as once more in sparking a 14-point comeback within the second half with 20 of his 36 factors coming within the third quarter.
“That is why he is the clear-cut MVP,” Malone stated. “As a result of you may take anyone away from our group, if we’ve Nikola, you could possibly put me, Wes Unseld, Ryan Bowen, Charles Klask, whoever you need on the market, we’ll discover a method to compete as a result of that is how nice he’s.”
Requested how the Nuggets made up the second-half deficit, Porter supplied a easy clarification: “Getting stops and Nikola Jokic.”
It has additionally been the position gamers, together with the rise of Porter, who’ve buoyed the Nuggets. Porter set the tone early, scoring 22 factors in an electrical first quarter as Jokic handled foul bother. As soon as Jokic settled in in the course of the third quarter, the Nuggets acquired huge pictures and large performs from Monte Morris (22 factors and 9 assists), Austin Rivers, Aaron Gordon and JaMychal Inexperienced.
“We acquired a variety of dudes which might be robust gamers, man,” Porter stated. “Like me, I had my second within the first half after which I cooled off. I do not suppose I scored [the rest of the game]. Then Jokic clearly took over, however the best way Austin and AG had their moments, and Monte, J-Myke — we simply have a variety of dudes which might be succesful.”
Jokic is the fulcrum, although, and have become solely the second participant ever (Dirk Nowitzki in 2002 the opposite) to common 30 factors and 10 rebounds on 50% taking pictures and 40% from 3 in a playoff sequence. He acquired his 36 in Recreation 6 regardless of not scoring within the first quarter.
“The primary quarter, I used to be not even that aggressive. I did not need to pressure it,” Jokic stated. “Like why [try] to pressure when I’ve a very good scorer going? So why would I possibly make him chilly or no matter, make him offended, so I can sacrifice myself a pair minutes or 1 / 4?”
Jokic and Lillard dueled all through the sequence, with each placing collectively historic performances. However in Recreation 6, Jokic outscored Lillard 27-9 within the second half because the sequence slipped away from Portland. Lillard already endorsed Jokic for MVP a number of instances, and reiterated his take after Recreation 6, however even took it up to now to say he thinks Jokic is the caliber of star who could lead on Denver all the best way to the mountaintop this season.
“He is all the pieces for them,” Lillard stated of Jokic. “I feel if it was any 12 months a man like him, what he does for that group, could lead on his group to a championship, it might be this 12 months due to how open it’s. There is no favourite. In my eyes, at the least, I really feel like anyone can get beat and anyone can go get it finished. That is why it is much more disappointing for me, as a result of I felt like if there’s any 12 months you may shoulder the load and go get one, it was this one. I undoubtedly suppose he is able to it.”
The Nuggets transfer on from the primary spherical for a 3rd consecutive season and can tackle the second-seeded Phoenix Suns within the second spherical. However after a run to the Western Convention finals a 12 months in the past within the bubble, the Nuggets aren’t content material with simply conquering Lillard and the Blazers.
“I simply informed our group this, hell of a win to return in right here and win a Recreation 6 on the highway is nice. However we’re not happy,” Malone stated. “Our aim coming into the season was to not get out of the primary spherical. We now have a lot greater objectives.”