Lillard hits floater, Blazers beat Nuggets 115-113 in OT
DENVER (AP) — The lights went out at the Pepsi Center. And no, the power outage had nothing to do with Damian Lillard’s shooting.
It only appeared that way since he was shooting lights out.
Lillard scored 37 points, including the go-ahead floater with less than a second remaining in overtime, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 115-113 on Saturday night in a game that featured a 28-minute delay in the fourth quarter due to a power surge.
Lillard blew past big man Kenneth Faried in the lane and floated in a shot with 0.3 seconds left. Lillard had tied the game on a runner in regulation with 2.1 seconds remaining.
Denver led 90-85 with 9:18 remaining in the final quarter when a bank of lights went out near the ceiling. The teams shot jumpers until the game was restarted. Portland shot lights out in its return to the court — the Nuggets not as much, especially down the stretch when they squandered a nine-point lead.
“That was one of the craziest games I’ve been a part of, with the lights going out, us playing a great game,” Lillard said of a contest that lasted 3 hours, 18 minutes. “They played a great game, and us finding a way back in a short amount of time, forcing overtime, being down in overtime and us just finding a way. I think that speaks to our resiliency as a team.”
CJ McCollum had seven of his 23 points in overtime to provide a spark for Portland.
“We essentially told the team after the lights (went out), it was a nine-minute game,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We won that, and then we won the five-minute (overtime) game. To have a good season you have to find ways to win games like this.”
Nikola Jokic led six Denver players in double figures with 23 points and he had a career-high 17 rebounds in the home opener for Denver.
Trailing 70-59 at 9:35 of the third quarter, the Nuggets went on a 17-0 run to take a lead that held up until Lillard’s layup off an inbounds pass from Mason Plumlee.
Wilson Chandler had a chance to seal the game in the closing seconds of regulation but missed two free throws.
“If I make those free throws, game over,” Chandler said.
Really, though, it was a combination of factors. Like with 52.7 seconds remaining in regulation and Faried came up with a steal, only to turn it back over by throwing a bad pass. Lillard turned that mistake into a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 104-99 and give Portland a chance.
“Turnovers, missed free throws, poor execution,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Give them credit, they hung around and stole a game on the road, which is what good teams do. For us, going to keep our heads up. We’ve got to learn from this.”
Denver honored Dikembe Mutombo at halftime by retiring the No. 55 jersey of the finger-wagging, shot-blocker extraordinaire. The team even brought out their “Rainbow Skyline” throwback uniforms for the occasion.
Blazers: C Festus Ezeli (left knee) missed the game. ... The Blazers are 6-1 in their last seven games in Denver. ... Plumlee finished with 13 points. ... McCollum had 10 rebounds and a career-high three blocks.
Nuggets: F Darrell Arthur (left knee) and G Gary Harris (groin) didn’t play. The Nuggets were down a stalwart perimeter defender in Harris. ... G Emmanuel Mudiay had 21 points.
There was no way Lillard was calling a timeout with the game on the line in OT since Denver had three big men on the court. Instead, he drove right past Faried.
“If we called a timeout they could have adjusted, put maybe a defensive team in and got more wings out there,” Lillard explained.
Mutombo became the fifth player in team history to have his jersey raised to the rafters, joining Byron Beck (40), Alex English (2), Dan Issel (44) and David Thompson (33). Coach Doug Moe had No. 432 raised up to the roof, too, in commemoration of his franchise-record number of wins.
In addition, the team presented Mutombo a $50,000 check for his foundation and a painting of him lying on the court, clutching the ball over his head, after the eighth-seeded Nuggets upset top-seeded Seattle during the 1993-94 postseason.
Blazers: Host Golden State on Tuesday night.
Nuggets: At Toronto on Monday night.