Mc­Col­lum leads Blaz­ers past Nuggets

The News-Times - - SCOREBOARD -

DENVER — CJ Mc­Col­lum scored 37 points and the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers over­came a 17-point firsthalf deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets

100-96 on Sun­day to ad­vance to the Western Con­fer­ence Fi­nals for the first time since

2000. Evan Turner, who scored just four points in the first six games of the se­ries, added 14 points, in­clud­ing

10 in the fourth quar­ter. The Trail Blaz­ers ad­vanced to face the two-time de­fend­ing NBA cham­pion Golden State War­riors, be­gin­ning Tues­day night in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia.

Turner cor­ralled the re­bound when Nikola Jo­kic’s des­per­a­tion 3-pointer hit the rim and drib­bled out the clock, send­ing the stunned crowd streaming to the ex­its at the Pepsi Cen­ter, where the Nuggets owned the best record in the league dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son but where they lost twice to Port­land in the se­ries.

The Nuggets raced to a

39-22 lead and Game 7 was be­gin­ning to look a lot like Game 5, when Denver blew out Port­land by 26 points in this build­ing. But Blaz­ers coach Terry Stotts called a time­out with 7:26 left in the sec­ond quar­ter and his team be­gan chip­ping away.

“There wasn’t go­ing to be any quit,” Stotts said. “I didn’t think they ever stopped believ­ing. … It was just about re­group­ing.”

The Blaz­ers were down

48-39 at half­time and trailed by just a point head­ing into the fourth quar­ter.

That’s when the Nuggets’ hopes of reach­ing their first Western Con­fer­ence Fi­nals in a decade died with a

7-of-24 shoot­ing per­for­mance, in­clud­ing 3 of 10 from Jo­kic, who tear­fully blamed him­self in the locker room for the loss.

Non­sense, said his coach, Michael Malone, who said Jo­kic proved to the world in these last 14 play­off games that he’s the best big man in bas­ket­ball and he only pe­tered out at the end because the Nuggets had to rely so heav­ily on their 7-foot Al­lS­tar.

It was a dev­as­tat­ing end to Denver’s sea­son af­ter the Nuggets ended a six-year play­off drought and earned the sec­ond seed in the Western Con­fer­ence bracket.

“I’m not go­ing to al­low (a) Game 7 loss to take away from a mag­i­cal year,” Malone said, “and it doesn’t feel that way right now but when I re­flect, and when our play­ers re­flect, on what we were able to ac­com­plish — hell of a year, couldn’t ask for any­thing more from our guys.”

Mc­Col­lum, who had 30 points in Port­land’s Game 6 vic­tory, came up big on a night Damian Lil­lard made just 3 of 17 shots for 13 points. But two of those buck­ets were cru­cial 3point­ers in the fourth quar­ter.

Jo­kic led Denver with 29 points, but missed 15 shots. Ja­mal Mur­ray had 14 points, but was 4 of 18 from the floor.

Matthew Stock­man / Getty Images

CJ Mc­Col­lum of the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers cel­e­brates their 100-96 win over the Denver Nuggets af­ter Game 7 of the Western Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals at the Pepsi Cen­ter on Sun­day in Denver.

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