Sunday’s Game 7 between Portland and Denver was interesting to say the least.
In the end, the Trail Blazers claimed a 100-96 victory to advance to the Western Conference finals.
Here are three takeaways from Portland’s big win
CJ McCollum could be just as important as Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard was terrible when it came to shooting the basketball. The Trail Blazers star was scoreless in the first quarter and finished with 13 points on 3-of-17 shooting.
But CJ McCollum kept Portland in the game. He finished with a game-high 37 points on 17-of-29 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds.
Both sides were horrendous when it came to shooting from behind the arc. The Trail Blazers made four of their 26 attempts from deep while the Nuggets converted two of their 19 heaves. McCollum attempted just three 3-pointers and punished Denver with big mid-range shots.
McCollum entered Sunday averaging 24.5 points in the postseason, and his consistency could be the key to extending Portland’s playoff run.
Nikola Jokic’s limited playmaking made a difference
Jokic has been one of the NBA’s brightest stars this postseason.
The unconventional center does it all. He scores and rebounds like an All-Star, but his greatest strength is his ability to distribute the ball to his teammates. But he wasn’t able to do that in Game 7.
Jokic entered Sunday averaging 24.8 points, 13 rebounds and 9.2 assists in the playoffs. He had not recorded less than six assists in the second round until Sunday. Portland held the big man to just two, so the heart and soul of the Nuggets’ offense was rendered ineffective.
Portland showed tremendous poise against one the league’s youngest teams
The Trail Blazers haven’t been to the Western Conference finals since 2000, but they have a roster with plenty of postseason experience.
Denver is one of the youngest teams in the NBA. While the No. 2 seed has some promising rising stars, it got ahead of itself early.
The Nuggets had home-court advantage and led by as many as 17 points in the first half. Damian Lillard counteracted his poor shooting night by finding other ways to contribute. He dished out a game-high eight assists, grabbed 10 rebounds and deferred to a pipin’ hot CJ McCollum.
Even when Rodney Hood went down with a hyperextended knee, Portland pushed on to move one step closer to the NBA Finals.
The Trail Blazers will face the defending champion Warriors in the third round of the playoffs.