Backcourt boosts Blazers past Nuggets, sets up Game 7

The host Portland Trail Blazers forced a Game 7 in their Western Conference semifinal playoff series against the Denver Nuggets with a dominant second-half performance that produced a 119-108 victory in Game 6 on Thursday night.

Damian Lillard put the Blazers ahead to stay with a 3-pointer with 4:18 remaining in the third period. Portland’s Rodney Hood hit two key hoops when the second-seeded Nuggets threatened early in the fourth, helping the third-seeded Trail Blazers send the series back Denver for a winner-take-all contest on Sunday.

Denver, which had won the past two games to go up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, went in front by as much as 10 points in the first half of the potential series-clincher before getting seriously outplayed by the Trail Blazers over the final 2 1/2 quarters.

Down by four at the half, the Nuggets did manage to seize a 76-75 lead on a 3-pointer by Nikola Jokic with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter.

Portland countered with a 12-2 burst, with Lillard providing the first eight points on a 3-pointer, two free throws and another trey.

Denver made one more push early in the fourth, getting within four points on two occasions. But that’s when Hood dropped in his 2- and 3-point hoops to open a nine-point margin, and Portland kept the visitors at arm’s length the rest of the way.

For most of the night, Lillard and backcourt mate CJ McCollum were a two-man wrecking crew. They combined for eight 3-pointers and 62 points, outscoring Denver counterparts Jamal Murray and Gary Harris by 23.

With more than half of his points coming on six 3-pointers, Lillard was the game’s leading scorer with 32 points. McCollum added 30.

Hood (25 points) and Zach Collins (14) combined for 39 points off the bench, helping the Portland reserves dominate the Denver bench 42-13.

Trail Blazers big man Enes Kanter was the game’s leading rebounder with 14 to go with six points.

All five Denver starters scored in double figures, led by Jokic with 29 points. He added a team-high 12 rebounds plus eight assists.

Murray (24), Paul Millsap (17), Harris (15) and Torrey Craig (10) also scored in double figures for the Nuggets, who won 124-98 when the teams last faced off in Denver in Game 5.

The Trail Blazers outshot the Nuggets 46.1 percent to 38.4 percent.

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