The Portland Trail Blazers are now 0-3 in their first-round series against the Denver Nuggets when Jusuf Nurkic fouls out.
Following Game 5’s 147-140 double-overtime loss, Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard spoke with the media about his team now facing elimination.
“Tough loss, man. It’s do or die now. So we’ve got to win both of the next two games if we want our season to continue,” Lillard said immediately after the game.
The Blazers came up short despite Lillard’s historic night.
But the Blazers weren’t able to get enough timely stops without their defensive anchor down low.
With a record-setting game of 55 points and 10 assists from Lillard, which had never been done in the playoffs until now, the Blazers couldn’t get over the hump in the second overtime.
Down the stretch and in the two overtimes, Portland was forced to defend MVP candidate Nikola Jokic without their best defender.
While the Blazers picked up their physicality on defense in the third quarter, Jusuf Nurkic was charged with three quick fouls in the quarter after only recording one foul in the first half.
But Lillard wondered why the whistle was blown with 4:11 remaining in regulation, as Nurkic was called for the offensive foul
Because to Lillard, the Nuggets screens looked just like Nurkic's.
“He was handing me the ball and I was going up to shoot the ball,” Lillard explained. “I didn’t even see his fifth foul and I don’t remember his sixth one."
Lillard added, “they moving on the screen, they stepping to the side. Everybody does the same thing and we penalize Nurk for it.”
Portland had to finish the final four minutes of the contest without Nurkic after he fouled out. The Blazers went with a small-ball lineup with Carmelo Anthony and Robert Covington in the frontcourt.
For the game, three of Nurkic's fouls came on the offensive end.
“We work too hard to get into these positions for something like that and the next foul, he’s out the game.”