LOS ANGELES, USA – The Portland Trail Blazers rallied on the back of CJ McCollum’s 37 points to stun the Nuggets, 100-96, in Denver and book a Western Conference finals date with NBA champions Golden State.
With Portland star Damian Lillard struggling to get shots to fall, Denver exploded out of the gates, seizing a 29-17 first-quarter lead that they stretched to as many as 17 in the 2nd period of the winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday, May 12 (Monday, May 13, Manila time).
McCollum kept the Blazers in it, his driving basket giving them their first lead of the game, 71-70, with 12 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.
The Nuggets had reduced a seven-point deficit to one when McCollum drained a step-back jumper with 12.4 seconds left to stretch Portland’s lead to 98-95.
Evan Turner, who scored just 4 points in the first 6 games of the series, scored 10 of his 14 in the 4th quarter for Portland.
After Nikola Jokic’s last-gasp three-point attempt hit the rim, Turner grabbed the rebound and the clock ran down.
Despite the third-quarter departure of Rodney Hood with a hyperextended knee, Portland booked their first trip to the conference finals since 2000.
They’ll open their best-of-seven series against the Warriors on Tuesday, May 14 (Wednesday, May 15, Manila time) with a place in the NBA finals on the line.
Despite his shooting woes, Lillard contributed with 10 rebounds and 8 assists to go with his 13 points. He connected on just 3-of-17 shots from the floor – but that included two three-pointers in the 4th quarter.
“He’s the heart and soul of our team,” McCollum said. “He’s done a great job of empowering us.
“He saw that I had it going so he just kept making sure I was staying involved in the offense.”
Jokic led Denver with 29 points. Jamal Murray had 14 points on 4-of-18 shooting.
"It's unbelievable to see how hard everybody worked."@CJMcCollum has props for the bench in the walkoff interview after leading all scorers with 37 points in the Game 7 win. pic.twitter.com/jnOu4slcT8— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 12, 2019