Behind CJ McCollum’s ‘incredible’ performance, Portland Trail Blazers beat Denver Nuggets, advance to Western Conference finals – OregonLive

Behind CJ McCollum’s ‘incredible’ performance, Portland Trail Blazers beat Denver Nuggets, advance to Western Conference finals – OregonLive

DENVER — After demolishing the Denver Nuggets with a dazzling and delicious performance that will go down in Portland Trail Blazers lore, CJ McCollum climbed the steps of the Pepsi Center in Section 129 in search of a hug. Sitting in a seat on the aisle about 15 rows up was Kathy Andrews, McCollum’s mother,…

DENVER — After demolishing the Denver Nuggets with a horny and nice efficiency that can dawdle down in Portland Slouch Blazers lore, CJ McCollum climbed the steps of the Pepsi Center in Piece 129 seeking a hug.

Sitting in a seat on the aisle about 15 rows up became as soon as Kathy Andrews, McCollum’s mother, and as her son sauntered up the steps, a tailored green suit draped spherical his shoulders, he couldn’t aid however flash a victorious grin. Andrews pointed her cell cell phone at McCollum as he ascended, absolute self belief snatching video of the moment, and as he reached her she rose to allotment a Mother’s Day include the two will always bear in mind.

“He said he became as soon as going to enact a genuine job for me,” Andrews said. “I told him that every person I wanted for Mother’s Day became as soon as a spend. He became as soon as treasure, ‘I told you so!”

Fueled by primarily the most spectacular and valuable efficiency of McCollum’s occupation, a diminutive bit redemption from Evan Turner and a whole lot of guts, the Blazers defeated the Nuggets 100-96 Sunday afternoon in Sport 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. It clinched a 4-3 sequence victory for the Blazers, who absorb been taking half in genuine the fourth Sport 7 in franchise history, and delivered a date with the vaunted Golden Speak Warriors within the Western Conference finals.

It’s the seventh time in franchise history — and first since 2000 — the Blazers will play within the conference finals.

“We don’t quit, we don’t quit,” Moe Harkless said. “When we got right here in at halftime, there became as soon as no person on this locker room that thought we absorb been going to lose the sport. We showed it on the floor, we’ve showed that every person season, all playoffs. We’ve been in scenarios the establish we needed to if truth be told, if truth be told battle to advance encourage out on high. We’re at our most efficient when our backs are against the wall. And I believe we showed that another time.”

Indeed. Basic treasure this not probably playoff flee, the Blazers needed to beat a mound of adversity to support their championship objectives alive.

They scored genuine 17 aspects in primarily the most valuable quarter. They trailed by 17 aspects within the 2nd quarter. They shot genuine 15 p.c from three-point vary. Damian Lillard had one in every of the coldest playoff outings of his occupation, Rodney Hood suffered a frightening left knee damage and Zach Collins encountered defective pains.

Nevertheless as if guided by fate — or the spirt of proprietor Paul Allen, some of them affirm — the resilient Blazers replied as they’ve all season when tragedy or field or damage strikes.

There became as soon as Lillard battling through a forgettable 3-for-17 capturing night to nail two snatch crunch-time three-pointers. There became as soon as Enes Kanter outlasting a Ramadan swiftly and sore left shoulder to memoir 12 aspects and 13 rebounds. There became as soon as Meyers Leonard struggling with Nikola Jokic on defense, Harkless making spend of intense ball-stress on Jamal Murry and Collins taking half in through that defective pains to abolish a if truth be told crucial seven aspects, five rebounds and 4 blocks.

Nevertheless, bigger than anything, there became as soon as a been-there, completed-that effort from Turner. And there became as soon as a masterful efficiency from McCollum.

And now a season that has by surprise developed from relaxing to special will proceed, with a date against the extensive, unsuitable Warriors and a shot at history.

“I genuine think we’re a comely tricky crew,” Turner said. “We always stop collectively, we stop confident — we’ve always been a confident community. Every person talks in regards to the playoffs over the last two years and I believe we paid our dues to get to this point, in suppose to battle through. We’ve had adversity this total year, with Paul happening, with (Jusuf Nurkic) happening and with Jon Yim getting into genuine into a automobile accident. Stress can bust pipes or personal diamonds. We never thought we absorb been about to lose.”

For McCollum, Sunday began with a textual deliver message.

Quickly sooner than the sport, he peered at his cell phone and noticed an alert from his brother, Errick, who, in-between his personal knowledgeable basketball games in Russia, became as soon as reaching out to present a legend allotment of advice:

“Don’t pick,” he texted.

Win to the midrange. Unleash the floater. Force to the basket. Be aggressive.

And, from initiating to total, that’s genuine what McCollum did. When his teammates absorb been laboring through an ice-cold originate — the Blazers made genuine 7 of 25 first-quarter shots — McCollum coolly made 4 of 6 and scored eight aspects to support them afloat. After they absorb been battling tooth and nail to advance encourage encourage from a 17-point hole within the 2nd quarter, he made 3 of 6 shots and scored seven aspects. Then he took over.

McCollum sliced and diced his manner across the Nuggets defense in jaw-losing fashion, swishing step-encourage jumpers, completing artful floaters, winding up comely drives to the hoop, nailing dagger after dagger after dagger.

“He became as soon as a monster,” Harkless said of McCollum. “He became as soon as not probably. He carried us many of the sport. He’s a killer and he did that tonight.”

And two execute-shots will be remembered most.

With 4:44 left and the Blazers clinging to a four-point lead, Jokic blocked Lillard’s using layup, corralled the rebound and heaved the ball ahead to Murray at halfcourt. The Nuggets’ dynamic point guard broke free and sprinted in direction of an empty basket, with nothing however a highlight-reel, momentum-stealing dunk ahead. Nevertheless Seth Curry caught up attain the logo and ran streak for streak with Murray to the basket, staling him honest ample. By the time Murray approached the hoop, he needed to make a selection for a left-handed layup and at the last 2nd — out of nowhere — McCollum rose and swatted away the are trying, switching momentum within the blink of an gaze.

It became as soon as presumably primarily the most memorable and unheard of lumber-down block in franchise history.

“I believe it became as soon as a turnover that ended in a runout,” McCollum said. “They passed it ahead. Seth did a valuable job of cutting off his man, making him absorb to head over his head and he set it lawful there for me. I genuine went and got it — Bron model. Shoutout to my man, Bron.”

Bron, clearly, is LeBron James. And McCollum became as soon as comparing his moment to that of James’ notorious lumber-down block on Andre Igoudala in Sport 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

“It became as soon as a mini version of Bron,” McCollum said. “I positively didn’t upward thrust up as high. Nevertheless it completely became as soon as a groovy play. It’s one thing that I will take into accout all my existence. I could per chance well per chance also desire a image of that one.”

He could per chance well per chance also desire to place a frame for his greatest shot of the sport, too. After rallying from that 17-point deficit to get a fourth-quarter lead, the Blazers absorb been battling off a difficult price from the Nuggets. And when Murray swished a valuable jumper over Harkless with 29.7 seconds left, Denver became as soon as internal 96-95. An exhilarating sequence that featured the whole thing from quadruple extra time to triple-doubles to mini-melees would fittingly dawdle all the model down to the wire.

In the center of a timeout, McCollum told Terry Stotts that he wanted the ball and the Blazers’ coach obliged, calling four flat and inserting the ball — and the sport — in McCollum’s hands.

He dribbled patiently on the perimeter, permitting a diminutive bit time to tick off the clock, and with about 18 seconds left he went to work. McCollum sized up Torrey Craig outside the three-point line, rocked side-to-side after which darted in direction of the hoop, stopping on a dime attain the free throw line. McCollum gave Craig a diminutive bit MJ-esque shove, stepped encourage, and swished a no-doubt-about-it, 16-foot jumper.

It gave the Blazers a 98-95 lead and proved to be the distinction.

McCollum’s last line: 37 aspects, nine rebounds, 17 of 29 capturing and one huge ol’ I-told-you-so.

Few Blazers absorb excelled through as many detractors as the scrawny child from Ohio who could per chance well per chance also most efficient muster a mid-vital college scholarship. He became as soon as too diminutive to play capturing guard, too defensively challenged to be triumphant alongside Lillard, too streaky to flourish within the playoffs. Most pundits and loads followers had long within the past made up our minds McCollum needed to be traded for the Blazers to develop into a severe threat within the Western Conference. Nevertheless there he became as soon as Sunday — after averaging 26.4 aspects and capturing forty five p.c from the sphere within the sequence — silencing them all.

“I wanted to empty the clip tonight,” McCollum said. “And I believed I did that.”

He also had a diminutive bit aid from Turner.

The oft-maligned diminutive forward, whose $70 million contract and up-and-down manufacturing has spurred harsh criticism from Blazers followers, earned every penny of his deal Sunday. He completed with 14 aspects — double what he had scored the relaxation of the postseason mixed — seven rebounds and two assists, crucial manufacturing that felt heavier because it became as soon as so neatly timed. Most of the injure got right here within the deciding fourth quarter, after Hood left with a hyperextended left knee, and became as soon as very crucial to the Blazers’ spend.

Turner completed the total fourth and initiated the Blazers’ offense for long stretches, scoring 10 aspects and handing out two assists. He sealed the spend by nailing two free throws with 8.0 seconds left.

“Things play out the manner they’re alleged to,” Turner said. “Accurate me being a talented, being within the league goodbye and fortunate to be in scenarios (treasure this) for the length of my occupation. I roughly knew in stress time, I’d be elegant. It’s genuine how I’ve always been.”

Added Stotts: “Evan has been in huge games. He’s a huge-sport player.”

Now, the extensive games will proceed for as a minimal one extra spherical, to a location they haven’t been in 19 years. The reigning-champion Warriors will be liked, clearly. Nevertheless so absorb been the Oklahoma Metropolis Remark in primarily the most valuable spherical. And so absorb been the Nuggets after taking a 3-2 lead in conference semifinals.

The Blazers absorb mourned the loss of life of their proprietor. They’ve continued the gruesome leg damage to Nurkic. They’ve dealt with Yim’s severe automobile break.

They generally’ve overcome all of it.

As they price forward, visiting terrain no Blazers crew has in nearly Two decades, there’s a model they are merely drawing attain the next piece reasonably than the initiating of the pinnacle.

‘We if truth be told feel treasure we soundless absorb a great deal of basketball to head,” Hood said.

After the sport, Lillard completed up a postgame television interview and headed to the Blazers’ locker room by himself. On the manner, he stopped to trace a couple autographs for followers inserting over the nook railings, strutted past a throng of supporters screaming his title and began skipping.

Fancy a toddler, Lillard skipped, over and over down a encourage hallway.

Then he slowed down and clasped his hands across the encourage of his head, cupping his palms forward to almost shield his face. Before he reached the locker room door, the weight of the moment hit him, his emotions overwhelmed him and the franchise cornerstone began to trip up.

By the time he within the discontinuance pushed originate the locker room door and joined his teammates, a sob boomed so loud it’s probably you’ll per chance well also hear it down the hall.

“We had the roster turnover four years within the past and all americans became as soon as like a flash to shoot us down, count us out,” Lillard said. “And at that point, we didn’t know for obvious what course we absorb been going to head in. Nevertheless we positively leaned in on the culture that we wanted to originate, doing things the lawful manner, working hard, being about each and every other. We if truth be told built that up from the jump. Every person is invested in what we’ve created.

“And I believe when we advance out on high in a sport treasure this, in a valuable sequence treasure this, you notice it in all americans’s get collectively. Every person’s wrathful, because we all completed a section in it. You don’t genuine originate this form of part with a player. It takes all americans to be all in. That’s what it became as soon as tonight.”

Contained within the locker room, recent proprietor Jody Allen became as soon as one in every of the of us to tackle the crew after the sport. She told them how proud she became as soon as, how impressed she became as soon as, and how wrathful she became as soon as — for the victory and for what lies ahead.

Then she entreated them to support this special season going.

“I bid existence balances itself out,” Turner said. “I’m no longer announcing this makes up for the tragedy we’ve had. Nevertheless … it’s probably you’ll per chance well also roughly if truth be told feel it became as soon as going to be a special year. In most cases, to no longer personal it unheard of, however the spirits of Nurk, the spirits of Paul, are alive and neatly. I believe it’s valuable for Jody in suppose to purple meat up us and enact all that valuable stuff. This spend is correct as valuable for her because it’s miles for all americans encourage in Portland.”

Joe Freeman | jfreeman@oregonian.com | 503-294-5183 | @BlazerFreeman | Talk about over with subscription.oregonlive.com/newsletters to get Oregonian/OregonLive journalism dropped at your email inbox

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