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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: Portland Trail Blazers hold off Denver Nuggets in Game 2 to level series at 1-1

#Aminu
(NBA Getty Images)

The Portland Trail Blazers are back in the series after grinding out a 97-90 win in Game 2 at Pepsi Center, their first in Denver since 2016.

CJ McCollum bounced back with a strong performance, leading all scorers with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists, with five other Blazers scoring in double figures.

After piling on the points in Game 1, the Nuggets struggled offensively today, shooting 34% from the field and 20% from the three-point line. Nikola Jokic, who battled foul trouble all game, led the way with 16 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.

With the series now heading to Portland for the next two games, here's three key takeaways from today's action:

Stepping up for Dame

On most nights, 14 points (on 5-for-17 shooting) from Portland's All-Star point guard would automatically equate to a loss.

Thanks to the contributions of a number of players, that wasn't the case in Game 2.

While Lillard failed to truly get going, the rest of the Blazers stepped up by committee to help lead the team to a huge win to even the series. Enes Kanter was the first to get going, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds in the first frame as Portland got out to a five-point lead after one. Kanter would go on to finish the night with 15 points and nine rebounds.

In the second quarter, Rodney Hood took over, scoring eight of the team's 22 points in the frame as it took a 15-point lead into the half. Hood led the Blazers second unit throughout the night, finishing with 15 points of his own for the game.

The third frame was Dame's best as he scored seven points (on 3-for-7 shooting), a figure matched by CJ McCollum, who scored seven points in the third quarter on 3-for-4 shooting from the field.

McCollum kept it up in the fourth quarter, scoring eight more points to bring his game-high total to 20 points on the night. McCollum's fourth quarter put a bow on a night in which a number of Blazers stepped up to make up for an uncharacteristic night from their All-Star.

As the series shifts to Portland, I wouldn't expect another one of these performances from Lillard again.

Nuggets go cold from deep

On a night where nothing seemed to click offensively for the Nuggets, their poor three-point shooting came back to haunt them as they combined to go 6-of-29 from beyond the arc (20.6%), their fifth-lowest mark in a game this season.

Jamal Murray (2-of-8), Gary Harris (0-of-5), Monte Morris (0-of-3) and Paul Millsap (1-of-3) all struggled on the night and in a game that was decided by seven points, a couple more threes could have swung the momentum in their favour, especially early on.

Credit to the Blazers defence as they smothered Nikola Jokic in the post, keeping the ball out of his hands, but his teammates were unable to take advantage of the resulting looks from deep.

They shot just 4-of-20 from three in the first half, leaving them trailing the Blazers by 15 at the break and despite an improved effort in the second half, it was all too late.

The Nuggets never recovered from their 12-point second quarter, which saw them go 0-of-10 from the three-point line.

Blazers nearly give the game away on the glass

After trailing 78-64 entering the fourth quarter, the Nuggets nearly stole this one late, dominating the rebound count.

They pulled down 14 of their 23 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, but were only able to turn them into 10 second-chance points. The effort was there, the finishing was not.

Jokic (14 rebounds), Millsap (11) and Jamal Murray (7) did the bulk of the damage on the glass for the starters, with Will Barton (11) coming off the bench with plenty of hustle.

It's games like this where Jusuf Nurkic's absence in the paint are felt the most, especially with Enes Kanter still struggling with a shoulder injury.

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