Nikola Jokic had 36 points and the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers in six matches with a 126-115 triumph 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 consecutive 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.
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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 matches.
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.
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