PORTLAND – The Denver Nuggets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 116-112 on Sunday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference playoff semifinal to tie the series at 2-2.
Jamal Murray scored a game-high 34 points for Denver, who recovered from Friday night’s marathon Game 3, which saw the teams slug it out over a record-breaking four overtime periods, with Portland eventually winning by three points.
“I thrive when I’m under pressure. If I get pushed around or challenged, I think I take my game to the next level. Tonight was just a must-win game,” Murray told reporters after the game.
Center Nikola Jokic added a triple-double of 21 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds for the visiting Nuggets, for whom Paul Millsap also scored 21 and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The game was won mainly from three-point range, as Denver scored 44 percent from beyond the perimeter, with Murray and Will Barton leading the way with three each.
But the Blazers also trailed from the free-throw line, making 78.6 percent compared to the Nuggets’ 89.3 percent accuracy.
Having led at the half by six points, Portland saw the game start to slip away in the third quarter, in which they were thoroughly outplayed and outscored by 13 points.
For Portland, CJ McCollum led the scoring with 29 points, closely followed by Damian Lillard who had one point less along with seven assists.
“I think it’s obvious that they’re trying to show bodies and make me play in a crowd,” Lillard said in the post match press conference in response to a question about Denver’s tactics to stifle his output in a way that the Oklahoma City Thunder were unable to in the previous series.
“When you see a defense come at you that aggressively, you have to identify what they’re trying to do, and try to make them pay for it,” he added.
Lillard was also confident of his team progressing to the Conference finals, where they will face either the Houston Rockets or the Golden State Warriors.
“The good thing is we won a game on their court. We’re in a good space. We know we’re capable of winning on their floor, so that’s what we got to go get done.”
Game 5 on Tuesday sees the series shift to Denver with the series poised at 2-2.