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.