The Denver Nuggets (50-27) got blasted in Game 4, and they looked like they were on pace to do a blasting of their own in Game 3. Instead, they produced one of the greatest playoff games of all time against the Portland Trail Blazers (44-33). Damian Lillard put up an all-time game scoring 55 points on 17-of-24 shooting including an NBA record 12 3-point makes. Nikola Jokic had a near triple-double with 38 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists along with four blocks.  

Game 5 was a huge win for Denver. In NBA history, when a series is tied 2-2 in a seven-game series, the team that wins Game 5 has gone on to win the series 85 percent of the time. Game 5 was bigger for no one other than Michael Porter Jr. After scoring three points on three shots in Game 4, he scored 26 points on 13 shots while grabbing 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the series. He’ll be looking to repeat that performance in Game 6. 

Unfortunately for Portland, they just wasted one of the greatest playoff performances of all time. In fact, it was the only time in NBA history that a player has scored 55 or more points on 24 or fewer shots while shooting 70 percent or better from the floor in a playoff game. The only other player to clear those marks and hit 50 or more points was Jamal Murray in Game 1 against the Utah Jazz in Round 1 last year. Dame is capable of another elite performance, but someone has to help him out more down the stretch.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (50-27, 23-15 away) vs Portland Trail Blazers (44-33, 21-17 home)

When: 6:00 p.m. MST

Where: Moda Center

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Portland. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Blazer’s Edge

Expected Starting Lineups:

POR: PG Damian Lillard, SG C.J. McCollum, SF Norman Powell, PF Robert Covington, C Jusuf Nurkic

DEN: PG Facundo Campazzo, SG Austin Rivers, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Will Barton, PJ Dozier

Three Things to Watch

Can MPJ and Monte Morris do it again?

Porter bounced back after an all-time dud game. If it weren’t for a missed free throw near the end of the first overtime, Monte Morris would have been the unanimous MVP of Game 5. 23 of his 28 points came in the second half including two big shots to start overtime after Lillard’s late three in regulation deflated the team. He ultimately iced the game with a pair of free throws in the second overtime. It was just the second time in the series a guard for Denver had scored more than 12 points. Can he do it again? For MPJ, with no Murray, the onus is fully on him to be the second star for Denver. He can’t afford to shy away from the light, and he needs to be aggressive to hunt for his shot and get to work early. 

Foul trouble on Jusuf Nurkic

Jusuf Nurkic has fouled out in three of the five games played so far, and, in Game 5, he didn’t make it to the end of regulation before he was sent to the locker room early. He’s averaging five fouls per game right now. Robert Covington and C.J. McCollum eventually fouled out as well. Meanwhile, Jokic was called for one foul all night, aside from his technical foul. When Nurkic is off the floor, the Blazers’ defense just isn’t at the same level. He has to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble. If he can’t do that, Portland is going to be in a precarious spot. 

Who’s the other guy tonight?

In Game 2, you got 27 points on 17 shots from Morris and Paul Millsap. In Game 3, it was Austin Rivers with 21 points including a dagger 3-pointer to seal the game. Game 5 had Morris along with a small spurt from Markus Howard. Who’s going to be the other guy tonight? If Morris and Rivers pour in 20 points, that is your other guy, assuming the stars show up. If it’s not them, who is it going to be? Someone needs to help shoulder that load.