With the score 140 – 140 and less than three minutes left in the second overtime of Game 5 between the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers, both teams were looking to make that big play that would potentially break the stalemate in this epic playoff battle and shift the balance to their favor.
Nothing was happening for a couple of sequences, until Nikola Jokic worked his magic. The Serbian big man got double-teamed (as usual) at the post and was waiting for the ideal opportunity to make a decisive move. Aaron Gordon cut to the basket, Michael Porter Jr. immediately stepped backwards to position himself just behind the 3-point line and the Joker sent an outstanding, science-defying pass to the latter who was now locked and loaded for a triple.
“I was like: ‘Come one, someone,'” Jokic said. “Because I saw [Norman] Powell coming to double team, like coming towards me. And I was like, ‘Just, someone’. And then Aaron looked at me and he started cutting. And I threw a little lob pass, above [Robert] Covington, I think. And Mike made a big three.”
The Nuggets went up 143 – 140 and stayed there to get the 147 – 140 win that puts them one victory away from the Western Conference semifinals. In his most complete game overall in the series, Jokic led the charge with 38 points, 11 rebounds, plus a personal series-high nine assists and a season-high four blocks. He and his company can advance with a victory in Game 6 Thursday (6/1) away from home.
They have a really good chance of finishing the job, especially if: A) They generate even more energy and, B) Shoot the ball like they did in Game 5. “You know they’re going to have a lot of energy and a lot of poise and we need to match it. [We need] to put the poise the attitude, we had today,” Jokic said.
After a lackluster offensive performance in Game 4 that included 13-44 3-pointers and many open looks going to waste, the Nuggets unleashed some heat from the perimeter with 20-44 threes, making key shots in the two extra periods.
“To be honest in overtime, Monte [Morris] made a big three, Austin [Rivers] made big three, I did.. “Jokic began saying and then humbly hesitated to finish a sentence that was about a shot of his own. “Monte made another one, a pull up. We need to make shots. That makes the game easy for us. As long as we have the the threat of shooting the ball, it’s going to be easy for us.”
“We were shooting the ball really well, I think we attacked the paint really well. We were finding open looks. Mike and Monte played really well for us. We had a really good collective effort,” Jokic later added.
It was essential for multiple Denver players to contribute in order to counter one of the most superhuman “Dame Time” shows ever witnessed: Damian Lillard broke the NBA’s record for most 3-pointers in a playoff game with 12 and delivered an otherworldly performance of 55 points (a franchise playoff record), 10 assists plus six rebounds. He scored the last 12 points (including the tough pull-up game-tying triple) of the first overtime to single-handedly force the second extra period.
Jokic was seeing his team’s defense getting ripped to shreds by Lillard’s fiery hand but couldn’t help but marvel at the spectacle.
“It’s amazing,” Jokic said. “We saw that from him of course. He’s really talented and he’s affecting the game, especially from the 3-point Line. But he was incredible today. He made some tough shots, he put his team on his back and he was carrying them. We tried to take the ball off his hands but we need to be better. Especially late in the game. It was kind of pleasure to be on the court. To witness that.”
Another thing that Jokic took great notice of was the crowd singing their adoration for him. Loud “MVP – MVP” chants were often heard by the fans in Ball Arena who want to see their superstar enjoy the fruits of a phenomenal 2020-21 labor by being crowned league MVP.
“I appreciate them,” Jokic said. “They are really good to me and they are really good to us. They couldn’t come to the games and now they can. I like the number and I like the noise. They are on our side, they are our sixth player on the floor.”