Well, that was quite the statement.
Following a tough loss in Game 3, the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Denver Nuggets in dominant fashion to tie the series up at 2-2.
Norman Powell led all scorers with 29 points on an impressive 11-for-15 shooting from the field. CJ McCollum added 21 points while Damian Lillard fell two rebounds shy of a triple-double, posting 10 points (1-10 FG), 10 assists and eight rebounds.
For more on the game, some thoughts at the buzzer...
1. Happy Birthday to a legend
Born on May 29, 1984, Carmelo Anthony turned 37 on Saturday (ET). He celebrated by scoring 12 points off the bench against his former team.
The birthday boy!- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 29, 2021
Great work, @ModaCenter ❤️🖤 pic.twitter.com/Vtlst4nfeJ
2. An unusual start
In the first three games of this series, Nikola Jokic averaged 13.0 points in the first quarter on a combined - wait for it - 17-for-21 (81.0 percent) shooting from the field and 3-for-4 (75.0 percent) from 3-point range.
That was the second-most in the league entering Saturday's games. The only player who was averaging more than Jokic was LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (13.3).
So it was a little weird seeing Jokic come out of the gates slow in this one. He was Denver's second-leading scorer in the period with six points, but he started the game shooting 1-for-7. Credit to Nurkic and the Blazers for the pressure they put on him, but at least a couple of Jokic's misses were shots he usually makes.
With the way Jokic started, the Nuggets were fortunate to not be down by more than eight points entering the second quarter.
3. Welcome to the dunk show
Even more surprising? Two of the three shots Jokic made in the opening quarter were dunks.
The first came off of a slick pass from Facundo Campazzo.
A thing of beauty pic.twitter.com/fivjWcCqxr- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) May 29, 2021
The second came off a faked handoff with Austin Rivers.
Love a good Joker Jam pic.twitter.com/jHw469paHD- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) May 29, 2021
4. Picking up the slack
Lillard had a quiet start as well. The difference was he got a little more help from his teammates than Jokic did.
Powell led the charge in the first quarter, setting the tone for the Blazers with 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 from 3-point range.
Norm's locked in pic.twitter.com/bt02QHKeR4- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 29, 2021
Nurkic wasn't far behind Powell in the scoring column, adding nine points and three rebounds in the first quarter. McCollum then ran the show in the second quarter. In addition to scoring six points, McCollum handed out four assists.
At the half, Powell, Nurkic and McCollum combined for 38 points on 16-for-25 shooting. Including Lillard, everyone else on the Blazers had 19 points on 5-for-17 shooting.
5. The game-changing run
It didn't take the Blazers long to turn a 10-point lead at the half to a 20-point lead.
In the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Blazers went on a 10-0 run to take complete control of the game, forcing the Nuggets to stop the bleeding with an early timeout.
Once again, it was Powell who came out of the gates strong for Portland. He scored six of the team's 10 points during that game-changing stretch, draining a couple of free throws followed by a runner and a midrange pull-up.
Powell scored four more points in the period to bring his total to 23 points in the game.
N 🔥 R M A N pic.twitter.com/MbpzuaYLJn- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 29, 2021
You know Powell was feeling good because there was quite a lot of flexing going on.
pic.twitter.com/xUS2yuWoP1- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 29, 2021
6. A tough game for the Nuggets
After averaging 36.0 points on .577/.500/.944 shooting splits in the first three games of this series, Jokic ended up with 16 points on 7-for-18 shooting from the field in Game 4. Michael Porter Jr. struggled as well, finishing with three points on 1-for-3 shooting in 22 minutes of play.
Without Jamal Murray, it's going to be hard for the Nuggets to beat any team with Jokic and Porter struggling as much as they did. Expect them both to bounce back in Game 5.
7. What's next
Tied at 2-2, the series returns to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday. As one-sided as Game 4 was, this feels like a series that could go the distance.
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