Trail Blazers beat Nuggets 96-100, move to final of NBA Western Conference
Denver Nuggets forward Mason Plumlee (R) fights for position against Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter (L) during the NBA Game 7 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO, USA, May 12, 2019. EPA-EFE/Todd Pierson
Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum (C) goes in for the dunk, as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (L-back) Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap (2L) and Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter (L) and Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins (2R) and Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (R) looks on during the NBA Game 7 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO, USA, May 12, 2019. EPA-EFE/Todd Pierson
Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton goes in for the dunk during the NBA Game 7 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO, USA, May 12, 2019. EPA-EFE/Todd Pierson
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (L) looks for an open man while being guarded by Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter (R) during the NBA Game 7 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO, USA, May 12, 2019. EPA-EFE/Todd Pierson
Denver, USA, May 12 (efe-epa).- Shooting guard CJ McCollum, with 37 points, led the Portland Trail Blazers to a 100-96 away win over the Denver Nuggets in the seventh and final game of the NBA Western Conference semifinals on Sunday, qualifying for the finals for the first time since 2000 with a 4-3 score.
The team from the Beaver State will now have to face two-time NBA champions Golden State Warriors, who qualified Friday by eliminating the Houston Rockets 4-2.
The first game of the final series between Warriors and Trail Blazers will be played May 14 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, where the Golden State team will have the field advantage.
McCollum, who scored 15 points in the first half when the Trail Blazers had a nine-point deficit at half-time, played 45 minutes and scored 17 out of 29 field shots, including a three-pointer from three attempts and 2-2 from the charity stripe, as well as nine rebounds.
Reserve shooting guard Evan Turner also played his best playoff game and scored 14 points, including 8 from 9 free throws, and captured seven rebounds.
While Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard scored 13 points and captured 10 rebounds, he missed 14 of 17 field shots, distributed eight assists and recovered three balls.
Swiss Turkish center Enes Kanter achieved a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds and completed the list of the four Portland players who had two-digit numbers.
As a team, the Trail Blazers achieved a 41 percent (38-93) success in their field shots, 15 percent (4-26) of three-pointers and 83 percent (20-24) in free throws, compared to the 37 (33-89), 11 (2-19) and 72 (28-39) percent, respectively, of the Nuggets, who also lost the duel under the hoops with 51 rebounds to 55 from Portland.
The Trail Blazers lost four balls to four of the Nuggets, who in the second half were unable to sink the decisive points, especially by missing from the foul line.
"When you have these percentages of shots to baskets the logic is that you lose the game, not that the opponent wins," a frustrated Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game. "We missed a great opportunity to reach the finals,” he added.
Serbian power forward Nikola Jokic, with a 29-point double-double, 13 rebounds, two assists and four blocks, led the squad from the Centennial State, but he also missed 15 out of 26 field shots.
Canadian guard Jamal Murray scored 17 points but missed 14 out of 18 field shots, including four attempts from downtown, and scored nine points from the free-throw line by hitting all the free throws he made.
Shooting guard Gary Harris scored 15 points, and was the Nuggets' third highest goal scorer, as power forward Paul Millsap reached 10 and captured seven rebounds, but their combined efforts failed to prevent their team’s defeat.
The Nuggets had an advantage of up to 17 points in the first half, but in the second their lack of success in the free throws – coupled with McCollum's effectiveness – sealed their loss.