Led by 7-foot center Nikola Jokic’s 25 points and 11 rebounds, a double-double after a back-to-back triple double, the Denver Nuggets have the opportunity to close out their second round NBA series against the Portland Trailblazers tonight in Portland.
Up 3-2, Denver defeated the Blazers at home on Tuesday night 124-98, the largest margin of victory by either team in five games.
Tuesday’s win was overshadowed by a school shooting earlier in the day in a suburban Denver community near the home of Nuggets head coach Michael Malone.
“The school is literally two minutes away from where I live,” Malone stated during his pre-game press conference. It’s also about seven miles from Columbine High School which experienced a horrific mass shooting exactly 20 years ago.
Malone’s two middle school-aged daughters attend a different school, but experienced a lockdown for the second time in three weeks due to the shooting and a threat.
Speaking from a parent’s perspective, Malone said, “I’m texting my daughter, telling her she’s going to be OK. I don’t even know if she will be OK.”
One student was killed and eight others were reported to be injured in Tuesday’s shooting at the STEM school in Highlands Ranch. Two suspects are in custody.
“For it not to be safe in a kid’s school is tragic,” said Nuggets guard Jamal Murray after Tuesday’s game. “We all gotta be better as human beings.”
The Nuggets held a moment of silence before Tuesday’s game in which Denver, the 2-seed, the second best Western Conference team on paper, blew Portland out the first three quarters by 24 points.
Jokic’s 25 was accompanied by Murray’s 18 points, 9 assists and Paul Millsap’s 24 points and 8 rebounds. Millsap, 34, dropped 19 of his 24 in the first half.
“He does all the little things that can help us win games and sets the tone for us,” said Murray.
Millsap is averaging 19 points and 9.6 rebounds with a 24.8 point average from Murray. Jokic’s performance has also been outstanding. Averaging 26.4 points and 14.4 rebounds, out of the five semifinal games, he’s logged two triple-doubles and two double-doubles.
Portland is on a two game losing streak after topping the Nuggets Friday night, Game 3 in a quadruple 140-137 overtime game, 68 minutes of playoff basketball, the first since the Boston Celtics defeated the Syracuse Nationals in 1953.
If a Game 7 is needed, they’ll play in Denver Sunday.