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Recap: Denver steals Game 3, Jokic drops 36, Rivers pours in 5 threes

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The last time the Denver Nuggets played the Portland Trailblazers in a Game 3 it was the infamous 4OT game where Portland stole it late but tonight was different. The Nuggets took the 2-1 advantage in the series and put up 120+ points for the second game in a row winning 120-115.

Michael Malone was right when he said each playoff game takes on a personality of its own. Denver dominated the paint in games one and two, but Portland won that area tonight. The Blazers annihilated Denver from deep, but Denver flipped the switch on them hitting 20 threes tonight.

Jokic was absolutely fantastic again tonight scoring 36 points on 11-21 shooting and 4-7 from three. He carried the load offensively, but the story of the game was the role players. They hit clutch shots down the stretch, and in a game where MPJ was not at his best, they fulfilled his scoring duties.

1st Quarter

  • The supporting duo of McCollum and Powell combined for 10 of Portland’s first 12 points
  • Blazers dominated the paint early. Led 14-0 in paint points at the 7:00 mark in the quarter
  • Denver a little timid offensively near the paint early, but they made up for it on the perimeter shooting 7 of 10 from three. Jokic and Green hit two while Gordon, Morris, and Campazzo contributed with one apiece.
  • Denver exhibited much better energy later in the quarter on both ends. Gordon and Jokic the early catalysts
  • Nuggets ended the quarter on a 22-6 run

Score: 39-30 Denver

2nd Quarter

  • Denver contested Portland’s perimeter shooting much better than games one and two. Blazers were not getting comfortable looks from three, which is why they were aggressive towards the paint
  • Blazers very active on the offensive glass. Nurkic, Kanter, Melo, and Covington contributing offensive rebounds
  • Nuggets bench outscored Portland’s 20-3 in first half
  • Denver remained hot from beyond the arc shooting 12-20 compared to Portland’s 5-17
  • Slow first quarter for Michael Porter Jr. but responded late in the second with two threes including a 4 point play and a loud put-back dunk

Score: 64-59 Denver

3rd Quarter

  • While Portland continued to struggle from the perimeter, Denver remained scorching from three and midrange
  • Jokic made 10 of 16 shots and 4 of 6 from three for 30 points
  • Campazzo played very pesky, active defense causing frustration from Lillard and Nurkic
  • Nurkic helped lead an 8-0 Portland run late in the third. 13 points and 12 rebounds at the end of the quarter
  • The Nugget offense struggled late in the quarter. They were stagnant on the perimeter waiting for Jokic to bail them out. Jokic made 14 of Denver's 20 points in the quarter
  • Nuggets 0 points in the paint this quarter

Score: 84-79 Denver

4th Quarter

  • Portland’s second-half offensive rebounds wearing down on the Nuggets
  • Melo was silent for three quarters but got into a groove in the 4th carrying the Blazers down the stretch
  • Denver’s offensive confidence was not there for first half of the 4th. Even Jokic missed about 4 shots he usually makes
  • Nurkic fouled out again with 5:00 in the 4th which seemed to open up some offense for Denver
  • Austin Rivers hit three huge shots late in the quarter leading an 11-3 Nugget run
  • Blazers cutting the Denver lead with easy, quick paint baskets
  • Jokic tip on Morris missed free throw seals the deal
  • Scoring leaders: Lillard-37, Jokic-36

Score: 120-115 Denver

Tonights Takeaways

Denver's role player showed up tonight. They needed some support scoring from others and they got it. Austin Rivers four three huge threes in the fourth, and JaMychal Green helped start the three-point barrage early in the first. Rivers was the silent MVP of this game with clutch basket after clutch basket in the fourth. He ended the game with 21 points on 5-10 shooting from three.

Jokic is making it look too easy. He has been such a tough and efficient shot maker all year but this postseason has been on another level. He’s shooting midrange shots with a hand inches from his face and not batting an eye. He is also making the three-ball at a higher clip than in the regular season, and that is important going up against this Portland offense.

Denver’s perimeter shooting. Tonight's game was a complete reversal of games one and two. Denver dominated the paint at home, but Portland flipped the switch on the Nuggets in Game 3. The Blazers were scorching from three in Denver but cooled off tonight while Denver dominated from beyond the arc. They hit 20 threes and shot 53% compared to Portland’s 29%.

Player of the Game: Nikola Jokic is too obvious with 36 points and 11 boards. My player of the game is Austin Rivers with 21 points hitting 4 fourth-quarter threes.