Nuggets win fourth playoff series in three years, eliminate Trail Blazers

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic and Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard after Game 6
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Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic wandered from the paint, shaking then hanging his head while swinging his arms in despair, after Nuggets center Nikola Jokic made the first of three free throws.

Nurkic had defended the likely MVP relatively well in this series despite fouling too frequently. That foul trouble limited Nurkic’s playing time for a team that desperately needed him on the court, but he committed no fouls in the first half  tonight. Yet, this was his third foul just nine minutes into the third quarter – on a Jokic 3-pointer, no less. Nurkic wanted to challenge, but Portland – up 13 – let the call stand.

Denver only further flustered the Trail Blazers from there.

From Nurkic’s foul, the Nuggets went on a 35-11 run en route to a 126-115 series-ending Game 6 victory Thursday.

Four series victories in three years, this is Denver’s most-concentrated playoff success since entering the NBA. The Nuggets can advance to a second straight Western Conference finals by beating the Suns-Lakers winner in the second round.

Decimated at guard with Jamal Murray, Will Barton and P.J. Dozier injured, Denver showed great resolve to win this series. Jokic (36 points, eight rebounds and five assists) kept pushing through some rough patches tonight until the Nuggets finally clicked.

Neither team played structurally sound defense throughout the series, and Game 6 was no exception. Not just Nurkic, Portland fouled way too much in the second half. Not only did that boost Denver’s offense, it took the Trail Blazers out of offensive rhythm. Their early hot shooting was the only reason they withstood a historic first quarter from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter in the first 10 minutes: 22 points.

Portland in the final 15 minutes: 18 points.

Monte Morris (22 points, nine assists, three steals) was the latest guard to step up for the Nuggets.

On the flip side, Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard appeared to run out of gas. After his Game 5 heroics and scoring and scoring 23 points in the first three quarters tonight, he shot just 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter.

Fizzling at home in an elimination game will only intensify the pressure on Portland coach Terry Stotts.