Portland Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers win "Instant Classic" but there was nothing instant about it

Portland Trail Blazers

It was after 11 o’clock Friday night and three hours and twenty-five minutes into a four-overtime game when CJ McCollum jumped in to steal a full-court pass and finally – FINALLY – put an end to a 140-137 four-overtime win for his Trail Blazers over the Denver Nuggets.

A long night. A long game. And a game that might have an even longer impact. It felt throughout the overtimes that the team that lost this one was going to hurt.

And hurt bad. And maybe even have a difficult time recovering from what must have been an emotional gut punch.

So many things happened. More twists and turns than the Hana Highway on Maui. More nerve-wracking, too. Let Portland Coach Terry Stotts explain that .part of the night:

“I have no idea what happened in the first half or the second half or in the first three overtimes,” he said. “I’ve never been involved in a game like that, regular season or playoffs – but it was an amazing effort by both teams.”

Well, most of the people who have been involved in a game like that are no longer with us. There has been only one other four-overtime game in NBA playoff history and that one featured the Boston Celtics and Syracuse Nationals on March 21, 1953.

“This game was an instant classic,” Denver Coach Mike Malone said. “It was a hell of a basketball game for two very good basketball teams.”

 

The minutes-played category was a classic, too. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic played a massive 64:58 and got an apology from Malone after the game. “That’s unheard of,” Malone said. “That’s ridiculous. I can’t do that to him. That’s too many minutes.”

Both coaches leaned on their starters through most of the fourth quarter and their overtimes. But it was a man with relatively fresh legs, Rodney Hood, who dropped the curtain on the evening. Hood came off the Portland bench with 1:59 to go in the final overtime period and tied the game with a 14-foot jumper 52 seconds later. He hit another jump shot with 44.9 to go that put the Blazers in front by a point.

Then, after McCollum missed a jumper and rebounded his own miss, he found an open Hood – who calmly buried a 26-foot three-pointer to pull the Trail Blazers from a point behind to two points in front. Seth Curry knocked down a pair of foul shots with 2.8 left to seal it.

“I think everybody is pretty tired, mentally and physically,” Stotts said. “The game was won or lost so many times by both teams, It was a roller-coaster. Every overtime, it was a roller-coaster.”

A quick summation of those up-and-down rides:

The fourth quarter ended with a Denver turnover followed by a desperation 61-footer by Maurice Harkless.

The first overtime finished with Jokic clanking a 27-foot step-back, three-pointer.

The second overtime culminated in a Damian Lillard missed three from 29 feet.

The third OT had the Blazers trailing by four points with 32.2 seconds to go and reeling. Denver got a little too careful – worried about fouling – and allowed Lillard to make a quick drive to the basket for a layup with 27.3 left and then McCollum stole the ball from Jamal Murray, knocking the ball off Murray out of bounds. That set Lillard up for another layup with 8.4 to go.

“We were down by four with 30 seconds left and I was just like, ‘I know it’s not a lot of time, we’re probably going to have to foul,’" Lillard said. "Something is going to need to work out because I started thinking about how I would feel when I got home tonight.

“I was just like, ‘We can’t have this right now.’ I’m sure everybody was thinking that same way, about how they would feel if they went home tonight and knew that we left this game out there and didn’t take care of business.

“We got it done.”

After Lillard’s two layups, the Nuggets managed just a 31-footer from Murray that banged off the backboard.

McCollum finished with 41 points on 39 shots while Lillard got 28 on 24 shots. Enes Kanter fought through the pain for 18 points and 15 rebounds. Hood got 19 points.  Harkless, who said he knew all along he’d play in spite of a sprained ankle, had 15 along with 10 rebounds.

Jokic had 33, Murray 34 for the Nuggets and Will Barton came off the bench for some brilliant play in overtime, scoring 19.

 

The teams have a quick turnaround, with Game 4 scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday.

Malone, you recall, nominated this game for “instant classic” status. In retrospect, it was a classic.

But there was nothing instant about it.