In a high-scoring low-turnover contest, the sixth-seeded Trail Blazers finished on top to become the second team on Day 1 of the 2021 playoffs to steal the home-court advantage.
In a rematch of the 2019 Conference Semifinals against Denver, Portland knocked down a playoff franchise-record 19 3-pointers to win Game 1, 123-109.
Damian Lillard, one of six Trail Blazers to score in double figures, led from the front with game-high tallies of 34 points and 13 assists including this ridiculously difficult 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter.
just......how?!? pic.twitter.com/77podDPcup- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 23, 2021
That said, here are the biggest takeaways from this game
Lillard sparks game-changing run in 3rd Q
Although nobody was running away with the game for the first 26 minutes, the Nuggets led for the most part. However, things changed a couple of minutes into the third period.
Coming out of a timeout, from the 9:11 mark in the third quarter, Lillard sparked a 34-15 run for the rest of the period.
He scored (15) or assisted on 20 points in that run as the Trail Blazers went from trailing 71-62 to leading 96-86 at the end of the quarter.
pic.twitter.com/bjeCdSEj4C- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 23, 2021
For the game, 20 of his 34 points came in the second half as Portland held onto the lead the rest of the way.
His 13 assists are a playoff career-high and led to another 32 points while he only committed two turnovers. In the end, he finished with a game-high plus-minus of +25.
Unusual night for Denver's stars
Since Jamal Murray was ruled out due to injury, Nikola Jokic - an MVP finalist - has been well supported by Michael Porter Jr. The duo picked up the slack and helped the Nuggets finish the regular season 13-5 over the final 18 games without Murray.
So, it wasn't a surprise that Jokic and Porter Jr. had productive games but they were certainly unusual by their standards.
The Serbian Center finished with a 34-point, 16-rebound double-double but only recorded one assist, the least he has dished out this season. It's way off his season average of 8.3 and his playoff career average of 6.9.
Nikola Jokic had just one assist tonight, a playoff career-low. Some context though, via Stats and Info as the Nuggets shot just 1-10 off passes from Jokic. By contrast, the Blazers were 13-15 off Lillard's passes, including 6-7 from 3.- Royce Young (@royceyoung) May 23, 2021
On the other hand, Porter Jr. had 25 points at the final horn on 12-of-21 shooting but he only made one 3-pointer of his 10 attempts. The 10.0 percent efficiency is far off his 44.5 percent for the season which is the ninth-best efficiency in the league.
Over the first four minutes of the final period, he did make things interesting as he brought down Portland's lead to just four (102-98) by scoring 10 of the Nuggets' first 12 points of the period.
Scoop there it is pic.twitter.com/KMwMDPGbr1- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) May 23, 2021
Melo's hot start ignites team's 3-point barrage
The series does have an underlying subplot in that it's the first playoff series that Carmelo Anthony is competing in against his former team.
Suiting up in his first playoff game in Denver as an opponent, the 18-year-veteran started the game on fire.
He scored 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter alone with nine of the 12 points coming from beyond the arc. At intermission, he was the team's leading scorer with 15.
Carmelo Anthony Appreciation Post pic.twitter.com/1SaGyoP4Ym- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 23, 2021
His early bombs from long distances ignited the Trail Blazers, who broke their playoff franchise record by making 19 for the game. Four different players in Lillard, Anthony, Anferenee Simons and CJ McCollum knocked down at least three 3-pointers.
The team's eventual tally of 19, which it knocked down at an efficiency of 47.5 percent, was the difference in the game as the Nuggets only made 11 3-pointers at an efficiency of 30.6 percent.
Both teams will suit up for Game 2 after just a day off. Will Portland extend their series lead to 2-0 or can Denver even things up before the action shifts further northwest?
Action tip-off on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. IST.
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