By The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Denver Nuggets have been good at bouncing back all season. Not even a draining four-overtime defeat could keep them down.
Nikola Jokic had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his second straight triple-double and fourth of the playoffs, and the Nuggets evened their Western Conference semifinal series against the Portland Trail Blazers at 2-2 with a 116-112 victory on Sunday.
It was less than 48 hours after Portland’s 140-137 quadruple-overtime victory. It was only the second game in playoff history that went to four overtimes. The other was in 1953.
“Our guys are tough,” Nuggets Coach Michael Malone said. He added, “I mean, to come in here and win this game 36 hours after losing in four overtimes, speaks to just how tough we are.”
Malone cited regular-season statistics to back up his claims: Denver was 12-1 in the second game of back-to-backs, best in the N.B.A., and 13-3 in games decided by 3 points or fewer.
Jamal Murray led all scorers with 34 points and made all 11 of his free throws for the Nuggets, who handed Portland their first postseason loss at home this season. The series heads back to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday.
C. J. McCollum had 29 points and Damian Lillard added 28 for the Trail Blazers, who missed out on taking their first 3-1 lead in a conference semifinal series since 2000.
“You go up, 3-1, and you have a lot of momentum and obviously that would be a great position to be in,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “But they’re a good team; they came out and played well.”
Al-Farouq Aminu’s tip pulled the Blazers to 99-96 with 4 minutes 12 seconds to go. Lillard narrowed the gap to 1 with a pair of free throws, but Will Barton hit a 3-pointer and the Nuggets held off Portland down the stretch.
Rodney Hood’s 3-pointer got the Blazers to 110-107 with 52 seconds left, and Lillard’s layup made it 112-110 with 7.7 seconds to go. But Murray’s free throws gave Denver a 4-point lead. McCollum hit a long jumper that after a video replay was ruled a 2, and Denver held on.
“We just said to ourselves, ‘If we win today, then the last game doesn’t really matter that much,’ ” Jokic said.