By Justin Adams
(CBS4) – Last season the Denver Nuggets missed the playoffs by one game. Now they sit one game away from being in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2009 and the fourth time in franchise history. Amazing how quickly life changes in the NBA.
The Nuggets are in “Rip City” to face the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Denver has a 3-2 series lead after winning the last two games, including a 124-98 rout at the Pepsi Center in Game 5 on Tuesday night.
The hero of Game 5 was Paul Millsap who played in his 99th career playoff game. With the Nuggets two leading scorers Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray on the bench with foul trouble in the first quarter, Millsap took over the scoring, dropping 12 points in the opening quarter.
“We feel that he’s got a good matchup in this series.” Nuggets Head Coach Michael Malone said on the team’s website. “When you’re out there with your second unit, Paul gives you a guy you can go throw who is going to get you a good shot.
The shots started to fall for Murray and Jokic once they returned to the game. Murray scored 11 of his 18 points in the second quarter, while Jokic finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds. But the Nuggets biggest advantage came from their defense.
In the last game and a half (six quarters), Portland has shot 28 percent on their 3-pointers. The Nuggets have pressured Portland’s strong backcourt of CJ McCullom and Damian Lillard into tough shots, while forcing the ball out their hands through double-teams at the top of the arc. But Denver expects the Trail Blazers guard play to come out swinging Thursday night.
“Dame (Damian Lilliard) is going to be aggressive. C (CJ McCullom) is going to be aggressive, Jamal Murray said. “I think it’s going to come on our defense in being physical, finishing out every possession with the rebound. Just kind of doing the detailed stuff and the little things coming into the game. So, you know, we got to come out with the mentality of closing out and not trying to come back home.”
If the Nuggets were to lose in Portland, Game 7 would be at the Pepsi Center on Sunday. Which is something that could happen — as the Trail Blazers haven’t lost consecutive home games all season.
Tip off of Game 6 starts at 8:30 p.m.