The Portland Trail Blazers needed a win over the Denver Nuggets in the final game of the regular season to avoid the 7th seed in the Western Conference and a date in next week’s NBA Play-In tournament. With Denver playing for next to nothing, the Blazers easily got their wish. They opened the game with 11 straight points and never looked back, winning a blast.
The Blazers put 7 double-digit players in the game, including three starters over 20: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.
The victory ensures the Blazers will finish at least 6th in the conference, with a chance of finishing 5th if the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers both lose their games. These games are not final at the time of publication, but it looks like the Lakers will win. We’ll be releasing a separate update to let you know Portland’s top seed and opponent.
The Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight. leaving Denver as third seed and the Clippers as fourth. You can judge the seeding accordingly.
The Nuggets wanted this game like you want your fourth plate at the local buffet. If it was easy and free, they would take it. But they moved slowly, as if they had doubts about everything. The Blazers took a 23-12 lead before the end of the first period. Denver didn’t defend at all and entered into offensive sets with all the variety and vigor of plain, fat-free yogurt. The Blazers looked awesome, but under these circumstances they pretty much had to. Jusuf Nurkic scored 11 points during the period, with Nikola Jokic appearing to play defense primarily to avoid injury. The Blazers also reached 9 threes. Meanwhile, Denver apparently stole all three, shooting like Robocop before Officer Lewis set his goal. The score was 43-22, Portland after one.
The Blazers started the second period as a bunch of wolves like the sausage factory. Carmelo Anthony looked around, “Can I shoot, and nobody cares?” The rest of the team raised their martini glasses and greeted him, and he proceeded to take all kinds of punches known to mankind. They failed, but it didn’t matter much. A few shots from CJ McCollum, who racked up 16 points in the game’s opening 16 minutes, were enough to keep the Blazers 20 ahead of the game. Enes Kanter also played strong. To their credit, the Nuggets kept Jokic for most of the period and he had 21 at the half. It remains to be seen whether he will appear in the second half. Either way, Portland was leading 72-55 at intermission.
Denver took their bench unit out to start the second half, fulfilling their mission of not injuring crucial members of their rotation in the relatively insignificant final game of the season. The Blazers played their regular roster, but with a little less enthusiasm in the legs and rotations. But Portland doesn’t need a lot of energy to score. The Nuggets cut the margin to 14 halfway through the period, but Damian Lillard canned a few easy lines to keep them at bay… far in the bay, actually. When Anthony hit a triple three minutes from the end of the third, the Blazers broke the 100-point mark and restored the lead to 20+. That was pretty much all she wrote. The scoreboard read 107-84 after three. The Blazers continued to score points in the fourth, as the kids attacked Willy Wonka’s factory and Portland came away with victory in the season finale.
The score of the box
Stay tuned for analysis of the game by Steve Dewald.
We’ll post Portland’s next game in a separate article, as soon as the NBA releases the schedule. Welcome to the 2021 NBA Playoffs!