Playoffs 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: Austin Rivers delivers to lift Denver Nuggets to huge Game 3 win in Portland

The Denver Nuggets have reclaimed home court advantage, picking up a huge 120-115 win on the road in Game 3.

In a game that was tight throughout, some clutch shooting from Denver down the stretch helped them pull away in front of a rowdy Portland crowd.

Let's jump to the takeaways with the Nuggets now leading the series 2-1.

Rivers delivers

Veteran guard Austin Rivers signed a 10-day contract with the Denver Nuggets on April 20. Impressing in his early days with the club, the team signed him to a deal for the rest of the season but even they couldn't have hoped to have a contribution on the scale to which Rivers delivered in this one.

Rivers finished with 21 points, four rebounds and two assists on the night, but it was his performance in the fourth quarter that sunk the Blazers.

16 of the 21 points came in the final frame, including four triples in the final six minutes. The final long range bomb proved to be a mini dagger, hitting nothing but net to give Denver a 111-103 lead with 1:24 to play.

Starting in the place of injured star Jamal Murray, the Nuggets likely aren't able to pull of this win without the contributions of the late season signing.

Jokic ices win on the glass

Despite playing the foul game in the final minute, the Blazers still had a minor opportunity to pull off a miracle with 3.9 seconds on the clock.

After CJ McCollum drilled a triple to close the margin to three, Portland immediate fouled Monte Morries on the inbound. Morris would miss the first, opening the door for the Blazers to rebound a second miss and take the ball full court for a game tying attempt.

Morris would miss the second, only for MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic to tip the ball up in the air off the glass before finishing on the second tip to ice the game.

The game winning play capped off another monster night for Jokic, who tallied 36 points, 11 rebounds and five assists on the night, shooting an efficient 12-for-24 from the floor and 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.

Still just 26 years old, Jokic is a superstar in every sense of the word.

Melo keeps Portland afloat

While Lillard and McCollum hit big shots late, it was Carmelo Anthony who came up big in the second half, hitting a series of long range shots to keep the Blazers within reach.

Anthony finished the night with 17 points on 4-for-8 shooting from three in 26 minutes, with 15 of those coming in the final 14:50 of game time.

He's not the same Melo who can carry an entire offence but he's proven time and time again that he is still very much a valuable scorer in the league.

Nurkic battles foul trouble again

Defending Jokic is no mean feat and through three games Jusuf Nurkic is having a tough time.

Such an important part of the Blazers system on both ends, Nurkic fouled out for the second straight game.

After managing just 24 minutes in Game 2 for his six fouls, Nurkic did last 31 minutes in this one, before having to exit the game with 5:17 remaining. The big man finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, with five of his boards coming on the offensive glass.

If Nurkic was on the floor for the final seconds, there is a significant chance Jokic isn't able to easily secure the game winning rebound. The Blazers need to find a way to keep Nurkic on the floor in Game 4.

Lillard and McCollum misfire from deep

Portland's star duo found the range late to give Portland a chance, but they were unable to capitlise on opportunities earlier in the contest.

Lillard (37 points) and McCollum (22 points) were still significant contributors for Portland, but their combined 8-for-26 shooting from beyond the arc wasn't enough to bring home a win for Portland.

As has been the case for many years, so much of Portland's success rides on the play of their guard pair and 2021 is no different.

Game 4 between Portland and Denver is on Sunday May 30, tip is at 1:30 a.m IST.

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