NBA Playoffs

Blazers have a lot of problems to fix after Game 1 -- on offense and defense

Blazers have a lot of problems to fix after Game 1 -- on offense and defense

OAKLAND – You couldn’t blame Steve Kerr. It was just kind of a little slip, you know. He didn’t mean anything disparaging.

And he was probably correct, anyway.

Asked about how well his bench played during Tuesday night’s series-opening 116-94 win over the Trail Blazers, Kerr said, “And this series feels – feels like it’s a series where we can play more people.”

You really could, I think, take that statement to mean that the Trail Blazers weren’t going to make it as tough on Kerr’s Golden State Warriors as the Houston Rockets did in the previous series – when every possession seemed to hold great value. You could even assume he didn't believe the games would be close. But I know he didn't mean that -- although a good portion of the basketball public would probably believe that after what they saw Tuesday night.

Kerr was asked later about his statement.

“Yeah, as I said, we feel like this is a series where we can, and this is a strategy where we can use more bench players if we can, but we’ll see how it goes,” he said.

The way the Trail Blazers played, Kerr could have cleared his bench and put himself into the lineup. Portland Just wasn’t ready for this one.

There were glaring problems on offense and defense, although Coach Terry Stotts dismissed the defensive trouble, even though Golden State shot 50 percent from the floor and 51.5 percent from three.

“Well, to be honest, other than the fourth quarter, the game defensively was manageable,” Stotts said. “They got loose in the fourth quarter. But going into the fourth quarter down six, we were finding ways to hang in on a night when we were struggling offensively.

“Certainly they got loose. It’s a combination of how well they move without the ball and pick and rolls.”

Well, a lot of the time it was pick and rolls. Alarmingly so.

The Trail Blazers got Steph Curry going by covering the Warriors’ pick and roll as if Curry weren’t simply the best shooter in NBA history. Since the Golden State bigs most often setting the pick were either Andrew Bogut or Draymond Green – players who don’t make and don’t even take many threes – Portland center Enes Kanter played way off them.

But the problem with that was on the pick-and-roll plays, once Curry got around the pick, there was nobody there to occupy him because Kanter had dropped back.

Open threes for Curry = many quick points, and Curry had 33 by the end of the third quarter.

“Yeah, that was very poor execution, you know, defensively, on our part,” Damian Lillard said. “Just having our bigs back that far, understanding the team we’re playing against, they are not going to shoot mid-range jumpers and attack the rim.

“If they see an opportunity to shoot a three, they are going to take it. They shoot it at a high clip. We’ve got to bring our guys up and run them off the line, and tonight, we were, you know, they were setting solid screens and coming off shooting practice shots. You know, that’s the last thing we need if we want to have any chance to beat this team.”

CJ McCollum added, “pick-and-roll coverages were bad all night and they were rolling to the threes.”

On offense, there were almost too many problems to list. Yes, the turnovers hurt. The Trail Blazers had 21 of them, one-third by Lillard, and they cost Portland 31 points. And the guards didn’t shoot well, either.

Lillard and McCollum combined to go just 11-31 from the field and 3-10 from three-point range.

The Warriors made it look like last season’s New Orleans series with their coverage of Lillard. They blitzed his pick-and-rolls and they just outright double-teamed him in other situations. When he went to the basket, they fenced him in.

“They did a good job tonight defensively,” Lillard said. “And even when I was trying to find guys, they were getting deflections just because it was a crowd.

“They were making me play in a crowd. I thought they were successful at that in this first game.”

The Blazers captured 16 offensive rebounds but got only 14 second-chance points, going 4-17 with their second-chance shots.

The Warriors had 17 fast-break points and the Blazers had just two.

Lillard and McCollum combined for 36 points, the exact number Steph Curry scored and Klay Thompson added 26 to the Warriors’ backcourt total.

All in all, the Warriors had plenty of opportunity to empty their bench. The Blazers did, too.

Obviously, for different reasons.

Can the underdog Trail Blazers beat the Warriors? Yes. Yes they can

Can the underdog Trail Blazers beat the Warriors? Yes. Yes they can

OAKLAND – I haven’t found many people outside of Charles Barkley willing to say that the Portland Trail Blazers have even a small chance of upsetting the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals, which begin this evening in Oracle Arena.

Make no mistake, the Trail Blazers are heavy underdogs to what have become the perennial NBA champions.

But does that mean Portland can’t win? No. It does not. But the Blazers will need help.

From the Warriors.

Let’s face it – if Golden State comes out and throws its very best games at Portland, the Trail Blazers are going to have a very difficult time sticking around. And the Blazers are going to have to play at a high level to stay with the powerful Warriors.

But in the playoffs, teams don’t always play at their highest level. Stuff happens. And the pressure, which often sits more heavily on the favorite than the underdog, can have an impact.

Take Portland’s previous series, against the Denver Nuggets.

Denver had the seventh game at home, where about 80 percent of the time the home team wins. Denver had a 17-point lead in the first half. Portland went 4-26 from three-point range. Damian Lillard went 3-17 from the field.

Yet, with all that, the Trail Blazers won the game 100-96. And it wasn’t, quite obviously, due to how fantastic Portland played in the deciding game.

Denver shot just 29.2 percent from the field in the fourth quarter and missed all six of its three-point tries. A good many of those shots were wide open. The Nuggets just missed them.

For the series, Denver made just 33 percent of its three-point shots – something you certainly wouldn’t expect from Golden State, a historically great shooting team from distance.

But again, stuff happens. Perhaps the Trail Blazers are a team of destiny that will confound the experts all the way to a championship. And with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the lineup, anything is possible.

Kevin Durant is not going to play in the first game of the series and probably not in the second. I wouldn’t be surprised if he misses more games than that because calf strains are tricky. And of course, the Warriors have a right to expect to win the series without him and may not want to risk further injury by bringing him back too soon.

But facts are facts. Even if Portland steals a win on the road, it will have trouble holding serve. The Warriors have won at least one road game in their last 21 playoff series, an NBA record.

And since the 2014-15 season, Golden State has a 13-5 record (2-2 this season) in the regular season against the Blazers and is 8-1 in the playoffs.

Not only that, the Warriors are 3-0 in the playoffs without Durant in the lineup.

But all that historical stuff is meaningless. The series will be decided on the floor, where Portland is a definite underdog.

But can the Blazers win? Yes. Of course. Somebody, sometime, is going to knock these guys off.

And that team will probably have been an underdog heading into the series.

CJ McCollum, team culture carry Trail Blazers to Western Conference finals

CJ McCollum, team culture carry Trail Blazers to Western Conference finals

DENVER – This amazing, incredible Sunday afternoon triumph – Trail Blazer owner Jody Allen called it “gritty” in her passionate speech to the Trail Blazers in their locker room – that vaulted Portland into the Western Conference finals against Golden State was a long time coming.

And it had so much to do with the team’s culture, its pride and its unwillingness to quit. And oh yes, CJ McCollum was other-worldly. And staff, front office, coaches – everyone there in the team’s family – was celebrating hard in the locker room and its vicinity when it ended.

“It speaks to the character of our organization and what we’ve become,” said Damian Lillard, after his team rallied from a 17-point second-quarter deficit to beat the Nuggets 100-96. “Obviously, we had the roster turnover four years ago and everybody was quick to shoot us down, count us out.

“And at that point, we didn’t know for sure what direction we were going to go in. But we definitely leaned on the culture that we wanted to create – doing things the right way, working hard, being about each other, not being about one guy or two guys. I think we really built that up from the jump. And to have that, it takes everybody – not just the players. You’ve got to have the coaches, the training staff, the front office, the security, everybody who is with us there every day. The PR staff – everybody we see every day.

“Everybody is invested in what we created,. I think when we come out on top in game like this, a tough series like this, you see it in everybody’s celebration.

“It’s exciting because we all play a part in it. You don’t just create this type of thing with just the players. It takes everybody to be all in. And that’s what it was tonight.”

Lillard was only 3-17 from the field but had 10 rebounds and eight assists to go with 13 points. McCollum carried the heavy scoring burden with 37 points on 17=29 shooting and he added nine rebounds.

But as Lillard said, even when Rodney Hood was lost for the game with a hyper-extended knee, the team got major contributions from Zach Collins, Enes Kanter, Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard.

Leonard, who arrived in Portland the same season as Lillard, was visibly emotional in the locker room.

“Emotional and happy,” he said. “This is surreal, man. This is seven years in the making. I was just talking to Dame. We were horrible our rookie year, then we were a 50-win playoff team two years in a row, then we decided to blow it up. We continued to bring in guys who wanted to work, who were good people, who were true professionals, who understood what we wanted.

“Then we go to the second round, then we get swept by the Warriors, then we get swept by New Orleans. All with the same team – almost the same people. Yet, we came out on the other end of it that much better. And that’s the most amazing thing about this team.

“We’ve added some guys but this has been an incredible run. But we’re not done yet. I’ve said this, I had a quote the other night, people from the outside looking in don’t know about this locker room and what we’ve been through.

“Every single guy is ready to play at any given moment. Every single guy wants the next guy to do well. And this has been a special run and this is a special team. There’s just been a lot of things that have happened – us getting swept, Mr. Allen’s passing, Nurk’s injury, I can go on down the line. There’s just been things that you would have thought would have knocked us out, that we would have thrown in the towel.

“But we haven’t. I would tell you, I’m a big communicator on the bench,. And I’ve never been around a group of guys that believes so much. And I’m a big believer, also.

“Even when we were down 17, I wasn’t worried because this is just a special team and guys that know how to get it done. It’s unbelievable.

“Maybe in the morning I will wake up and understand what happened but you should have seen us – staff, front office, coaches, players, everybody from top to bottom so happy for each other. This is a truly special team and special organization.

“People care and people work together. (Jody Allen) spoke really well. She was passionate, told us how immensely proud she is of us, the way we played with heart and determination and grit, that she’s proud to be a part of it.

“I thought that was pretty special considering everything that’s happened.”

Bert Kolde has been a part of the organization since his friend, Paul Allen, bought the team in 1988. Allen lost his battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in October and his sister, Jody, took over at the helm of the team.

“It’s been a legendary playoff run,” Kolde said after leaving the locker room celebration. “A magic carpet ride. And I feel that Paul’s spirit is watching over us. It’s special. It feels really special.”

Portland caught up with the Nuggets at the end of the third quarter and took a brief one-point lead but Denver led by a point heading into the final quarter, when the winners outscored the Nuggets 29-24.

McCollum had a chase-down block of a breakaway layup after Seth Curry went low to force the shot up high and that was a big play in the period.

“He put it right there for me and I just went and got it, ‘Bron-style,’” McCollum said. “Shout-out to my guy Bron (LeBron James). It was a mini-version of LeBron’s block on Iggy a few years ago. It’s something we will remember forever. I might have to get a picture of that one.”

Turner iced the game with two clutch foul shots with eight seconds on the clock.

“Pressure can cut pipes or make diamonds,” Turner said later. “So we never thought we were going to lose or anything like that.”

Ahead are the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, in a series that beings Tuesday in Oakland. But I doubt the Trail Blazers will be intimidated.

“Jody told the team, it’s been a great season – SO FAR,” Kolde said with a smile.

Her late brother couldn’t have said it any better.

NBA playoff schedule 2019: Trail Blazers vs. Warriors Western Conference Finals dates, times, TV

NBA playoff schedule 2019: Trail Blazers vs. Warriors Western Conference Finals dates, times, TV

The Trail Blazers are headed to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 19 years.

They reached the third round of the NBA playoffs Sunday by defeating the Denver Nuggets 100-96 in Game 7.

This year's Western Conference finals will be a battle of the Currys, and feature perhaps the two best backcourts in the NBA.

Portland and Golden State split their four-game series during the regular season, with each side winning a game on the other's home floor.

The Western Conference finals will begin Tuesday in Oakland.

Here's the Western Conference finals schedule. All games will be televised on ESPN: 

Game 1 -- Tuesday, May 14, at 6 p.m. PT in Oakland
Game 2 -- Thursday, May 16, at 6 p.m. PT in Oakland
Game 3 -- Saturday, May 18, at 6 p.m. PT in Portland
Game 4 -- Monday, May 20, at 6 p.m. PT in Portland
Game 5 -- Wednesday, May 22, at 6 p.m. PT in Oakland (if necessary)
Game 6 -- Friday, May 24, at 6 p.m. PT in Portland (if necessary)
Game 7 -- Sunday, May 26, at 6 p.m. PT in Oakland (if necessary)

Seth Curry, Steph to test brotherly love in Western Conference finals

Seth Curry, Steph to test brotherly love in Western Conference finals

Arguably the two best backcourts in the game.

Damian Lillard returning to his hometown of Oakland, for what could be the final playoff series ever at Oracle Arena.

The potential returns of both Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins.

The Western Conference finals matchup is now set after the Trail Blazers eliminated the Nuggets in Game 7 on Sunday, setting up a matchup with the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. The series offers plenty of reasons for intrigue, but there's one in particular that stands out for its historical rarity.

And it's bound to stress out every member of the Curry family.

In these Western Conference finals, Portland's Seth and Golden State's Steph Curry will become just the seventh pair of brothers in NBA history to face each other in an NBA playoff series.

This, however, will be the first-ever time two brothers have gone head-to-head in the conference finals.

Apparently, the elder brother was anticipating this outcome:

It's a simultaneous best-and-worst-case scenario for Dell and Sonya Curry. One of their sons is guaranteed to play for the NBA championship. The other won't get the opportunity (this year, at least).

If you think that's tough, just imagine what Sunday would have been like had the Warriors not eliminated the Rockets in six games of their second-round series. Had that series gone seven games, their Game 7 would also have been on Sunday, forcing the Curry parents to divide-and-conquer in support.

Luckily for the parents, the Warriors handled business in Houston, allowing them to be present for Seth's contributions to Portland's thrilling Game 7 road win in Denver.

You can be sure the Curry parents will be in attendance for all games of the Western Conference finals, however many there may be.

How they split up the team allegiances, though, is anyone's guess.

Damian Lillard on Game 7: "I’m going in there to get the job done"

Damian Lillard on Game 7: "I’m going in there to get the job done"

If there’s one thing avid Trail Blazer watchers expect on Sunday it’s Damian Lillard to have a big game. He loves the big stage and has a way of performing on a level to match the spotlight. And he’s a true leader, the captain whose teammates will willingly follow him into whatever situations this team is likely to face.

Here are his thoughts about Sunday’s Game 7, the first Game 7 of his career:

“I mean, I think it’s always people saying people have never been in a Game 7, but it’s basically a game where only one team is going to make it out. It’s your last opportunity to play, so facing elimination is what it is to me. That’s going to be my approach. We were facing elimination (Thursday). The only thing that’s going to change is that it’s going to be on the road.

“It’s for our season. for all the marbles. For me, I’m not going in there saying I’ve never been in a Game 7. I’m going in there saying I know what this team is capable of.

“I know what I am and I know who I am as a player and I’m going in there to get the job done. I’m not concerned with it being a Game 7 or whatever. It’s not Game 7 of the Finals, so it is what it is,

“The No. 2 thing is to get rest, stay off our feet, rest our bodies, make sure we do that part. And the No, 1 thing is to have our minds right. Don’t overthink. Don’t make it some big crazy deal or anything like that. We’re going to play a basketball game. It’s a big game and we’ve won on their floor before and we know what kind of mentality we had when we did that.

“We’ve got to go out there, be tough, be physical, be sharp in our scouting report, play for each other, play with each other on both ends and just put the pressure on them. Make them earn everything on the offensive end and then when we get the ball, make sure we get shots up. Value each possession. Don’t go out there turning the ball over, playing into their hands where they get the opportunity to get their crowd involved.

“So that has to be our mentality – to just be sharp, be physical, go in there ready to take the game because the only way it’s going to happen is us going in there and taking it.”

And it's possible that the physical stress of a long, second-round series will have an impact on who "takes it."

Famously, Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

I’m not sure about cowards, but it makes us tired enough to affect our performance, whatever our occupations. For NBA basketball players, it’s could be a matter of winning or losing a game. A series. Or a season.

And fatigue might be a real factor Sunday when the Trail Blazers face off against the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of a series where key players have been playing a huge number of minutes (H/T Truehoop.com).

Very much because of that four-overtime Game 3 in Portland, this series features the top six players in the minutes-played category of the playoffs. And four of those are Nuggets – 1. Nikola Jokic (515). 2. Gary Harris (478). 3. Jamal Murray (471). 5. Paul Millsap 471. The two Trail Blazers are: 4. Lillard (442) and CJ McCollum (431).

The adrenaline of a Game 7 to decide a trip to the Western Conference finals will carry these players for a while, no question. But there is serious doubt it can carry them through another complete game.

And whoever gets tired first is going to be at a big disadvantage. It’s definitely something to keep in mind as the game unfolds.

The Scoop Podcast: Inside the Trail Blazers locker room after Game 5

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NBCS Northwest

The Scoop Podcast: Inside the Trail Blazers locker room after Game 5

Head inside the Trail Blazers locker room with the NBC Sports cameras and Jamie Hudson to hear from Enes Kanter, Meyers Leonard, CJ McCollum and Rodney Hood following Game 5. 

Be sure to check back after every game for a new Scoop Podcast with all the audio from the Trail Blazers locker room!

Stay ahead of your Trail Blazers and get all you need to know this postseason. Get LIVE Trail Blazers coverage, in-depth articles, podcast, videos and more.  All you have to do is download the app, log-in and the Blazers are at your fingertips. Download Now!

Trail Blazers return home for must-win game after bowling-shoe ugly loss

Trail Blazers return home for must-win game after bowling-shoe ugly loss

DENVER – It was bowling-shoe ugly. It was battered-1946-DeSoto-on-blocks-in-the-front-yard ugly, No disguising it. No avoiding that or trying to make it sound better than it was.

The Trail Blazers lost 124-98 to the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night and the game wasn’t as close as it sounds.

Portland was outshot, from three-point range and everywhere else, outrebounded, outshot at the foul line and generally just out-everythinged.

The Trail Blazers’ starting backcourt went 14-37 from the field and 4-14 from behind the arc. The starting forwards were 3-11 and 1-4. The starting center was 2-9 and missed three free throws. Oh, free throws? The starters were 6-12.

OK, that’s probably about all you want to hear about it.

The Trail Blazers thus fell behind 3-2 in the best-of-seven series with a must-win rematch Thursday night in Portland.

But it would not be wise to go overboard on the depth of this loss. Stuff happens. Let Damian Lillard explain it:

“Whether you lose by one or by 25, it’s just one loss,” he said.

And sometimes a good slap in the face from a horrific loss is better than the heartbreak of a one-pointer. Portland now needs to win Thursday to send the game back to Denver for a deciding seventh game Sunday.

“I think our mindset should be, just take care of home,” Lillard said.  “We know that we are more than capable of getting it done. We’ve played our best basketball with our backs against the wall.”

The Nuggets were in this same situation in their first-round series against San Antonio, holding a 3-2 lead going back to Texas but lost Game 6 and had to return to Denver to wrap up the series – which they won more because of San Antonio’s off-night than their own barely average game.

“We know going into Portland for Game 6, it’s going to be a really tough game,” Denver Coach Mike Malone said,. “Game Six in San Antonio, we did not come ready to play, mentally or physically. I hope that we have a much different mindset going into Portland for Game Six.”

The Trail Blazers opened the game with a new wrinkle they’d toyed with earlier in the series – using Al-Farouq Aminu to defend Nikola Jokic, which left Enes Kanter to guard Paul Millsap.

Jokic finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds while Millsap was his usual Blazer-killer self with 24 points and eight boards.

“Gives us something different,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said afterwards. “Jokic spends a lot of time out on the floor and Chief is pretty active in their ball screens and gives us some athleticism out there. They didn’t look to post him much… When you get beat like this, there’s a lot of things that didn’t go well. I think it’s hard, right now, to evaluate whether that’s something we’ll do going forward or not.”

Stotts was terse when asked about his defense.

“We didn’t have a very good defensive game,” he said.

Kanter said, “They just played harder than us. We’ve just got to learn from this and just go home and take care of home, because right now, that’s the most important game of the season, of the year.”

Maurice Harkless put it in perspective.

“We knew we didn’t play the way we do and we know they played very well tonight,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in here feels like we can’t beat them. We know we can compete with this team, we can beat this team.

“It happened. It’s over with. We can’t really focus on that anymore. That’s the beauty of this game and the beauty of the playoffs, as well. Next game, it doesn’t matter.

“We have to make it happen.”

No question about it.

Now it’s simply win or pack up the gear and go home.

Terry Stotts one on one: About changes, Blazer offense and video spying

Terry Stotts one on one: About changes, Blazer offense and video spying

DENVER – Ten good minutes Tuesday morning in a one-on-one conversation with Portland Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts. I’m guessing at least one of YOUR questions will be answered during this chat:

DJ: Here in their arena having your shootaround, do you ever worry about someone from their coaching staff sitting in a room somewhere watching what you’re doing on a video feed? There are cameras all over this place.

TS: “I’ve thought about it, yes. You have to rely on professionalism, character…”

DJ: That’s what they used to say in New England when teams were having walk-throughs or practices at the Patriots’ facility.

TS: (laughter) It’s possible. I don’t know if they do that anymore. In the past, I think people have done that.

DJ: You said on the conference call yesterday you’ve given some thought to changes. Are you considering changes?

TS: We talk about making changes after every game. It’s just what to start the game with and what we’re prepared to go to…

DJ: And it’s more about what you’re prepared to go to, rather than what you start with, right?

TS: Yes.

DJ: There is the old cliché about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…

TS: There is that, but you can also be on the right track and just do what you do better. Most good sports franchises continue to do what they do well. To me, that’s their priority and they do what they do well – and there are changes to be made but, you know, the proof is always in the scoreboard.

DJ: It feels as if Dame isn’t getting a lot of room and if you had more shooters out there…

TS: Yeah, but you know, that’s true but three out of the four games of the series we’ve scored at a better offensive rate than we did in the regular season. Everybody tends to look at the offense, but when we’ve defended – our two best defensive games we won the game. We’ve had three good offensive games. Last game was our best offensive game – our best offensive-rated game – even with that bad third quarter. It’s easy to spin the narrative that’s convenient but it’s not necessarily true.

DJ: I know what your stats say but I know what my eyes say…

TS:  Third quarter was terrible but if you take the game as a whole, the whole game, it was a good offensive game.

DJ: Does it concern you that you got a big first half out of Curry and then he got only one shot in the second half?

TS: You have to give them credit for not losing him, you know. We ran a couple of plays for him and he made the shots. He only played about three minutes in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter, we scored … I always get back to, are we scoring? Regardless of who is scoring, whether it’s Dame or Seth or CJ … somebody is NOT going to score. But if you’re scoring as a team, what did we have -- 35 points in the fourth quarter? -- whatever. So we scored points. Seth being on the court opens things up for drives, so overall, I always look at overall, how the team is doing, not necessarily individuals.

DJ: You didn’t defend them very well in the fourth quarter, especially down the stretch. If you could just have gotten a couple of stops in the last three minutes you might have won the game.

TS: Everybody kind of looks at the … there’s a tendency to look at the offense but our defense was much more lacking than our offense in the last game. And you have to give them credit for making those shots.

DJ: I feel like they’re getting better shots than you guys are getting. Do you feel that way?

TS: I think it’s hard to say. I don’t know. Pick a game. Some games … it’s hard to make a broad statement like that. Over the four games, I don’t know.

When does a 2-2 playoff series seem not all that even? This one!

When does a 2-2 playoff series seem not all that even? This one!

The playoff series is tied at 2 games apiece, right?

The Denver Nuggets accomplished that late Sunday afternoon in Moda Center by holding off the Trail Blazers 116-112.

And as we heard many times from the Portland locker room after the game, the series is now even. And on paper, it certainly is.

But does it feel like this best-of-seven series is even? Another way to look at this thing is that it’s now a best-of-three series with the first and last games of that short series in Denver.

Portland already won a game in Denver during this series but winning another one won’t be easy. A Game 5 win would be difficult and a Game 7 victory might be VERY difficult.

It didn’t have to be this way, of course. Portland could have been up 3-1 in the series with the luxury of having three chances at winning that last one.

“It’s disappointing,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “You go up 3-1 and you have a lot of momentum and obviously that would be a great position to be in. But they’re a good team. They came out and played well.

“We had a bad third quarter and that kind of made the difference. We made a good comeback but now it’s a three-game series. So yeah, wouldn’t we all love a sweep, too?

“That didn’t happen. So now it’s 2-2 and we move on.”

Yes, the Trail Blazers were mowed down 27-14 in the third quarter. Portland made only 5 of 18 from the field in that period and Denver hit 11 of 22. But there were a few other little problems Sunday, too:

  • Portland allowed 17 offensive rebounds (which have been a problem throughout the series) and the Nuggets turned them into 20 second-chance points.
  • In a span of 3:26 down the stretch, Denver scored on every possession but one, getting 17 points in that time. The Nuggets had only one scoreless possession in that stretch.
  • Portland’s five starters each ended up in the minus column for the game and all four reserves were on the plus side.
  • Seth Curry came off the bench for 16 first-half points and got only one shot in the second half.
  • Damian Lillard was 3-4 from the field in the first quarter and made his only three-point attempt for 10 points. The rest of the game he was 6-18 and 1-6. He also missed two free throws in the fourth quarter and three for the game.
  • The Blazers were playing the intentional-foul game in the waning seconds but just could not keep Jamal Murray – now 18-18 from free-throw line in the series – from catching the ball off the inbounds pass. He went 6-6 from the line in the final 13.2 seconds,
  • Enes Kanter got only five shots and scored five points. With Nikola Jokic having played 65 minutes in Friday’s four-overtime game, one would have expected Kanter would have had the opportunity to work on Jokic a litte more often.

You will notice that the officiating wasn’t mentioned here because with all the things the Trail Blazers did on their own to lose the game, it’s probably not fair to blame officials -- or Scott Foster, the NBA’s most-vilified referee in just about every city in the league.

Foster does have a habit of working games when the visiting team wins, so Portland just caught him in the wrong town.

He did hand out a technical foul to Zach Collins, who had raised his arms in disgust while looking at a replay – which given the level of abuse the officials take every night, seemed a little harsh -= but that was just Scott being Scott.

“The good thing for us is that we won a game on their court,” Lillard said. “So it’s not like we lost both there, they came here and won one and we’re going back facing elimination. So I think we’re in a good space, two to two.

“We know we’re capable of winning on their floor and that’s what we’ve got to get done.”

So, again, it’s down to a three-game series and the Trail Blazers are facing the task of getting another win in Denver, where the Nuggets had the best home record in the league in the regular season.

For some reason, this 2-2 series just doesn’t seem that even.