Nikola Jokic had 36 points and the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers in six games with a 126-115 victory Thursday night in Portland, Ore.
Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points, including 22 in the opening quarter, for the third-seeded Nuggets. They await the outcome of the first-round series between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.
Denver advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the third straight season.
Damian Lillard finished with 28 points and 13 assists for the sixth-seeded Blazers. They led by 14 points in the third quarter but couldn’t stave off elimination.
Monte Morris hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close Denver to 101-98 heading into the last period. Jokic hit a 3-pointer to put Denver ahead 108-106 and Denver stretched it to 117-108 on Austin Rivers’s 3 with 3:52 left.
Portland tired to catch up, getting to 121-115 on CJ McCollum’s layup, but Aaron Gordon hit a 3-pointer that all but sealed it for Denver with less than a minute to go.
The Nuggets took a 3-2 lead in the series with a 147-140 double overtime victory in Denver on Tuesday night. It spoiled Lillard’s epic playoff performance: He had 55 points, including 12 3-pointers, and 10 assists. It was the most 3-pointers ever in a playoff game.
The Blazers needed big man Jusuf Nurkic to stay out of foul trouble. Tasked with defending Jokic, he fouled out in three of the first five games.
Nurkic didn’t have a foul in the first half, but then had four quick fouls in the third quarter and had to head to the bench.
Porter had six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone, tying an NBA playoff record for most 3s a quarter.
Lillard hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 68-61 lead at the half. He raised his arms to encourage the crowd as he headed off the floor.
Davis returns, leaves in pain
Anthony Davis managed less than 5½ minutes in his return to the Lakers’ starting lineup Thursday night before leaving in clear pain from his groin injury as Los Angeles faced playoff elimination in Game 6 of its first-round series against the Phoenix Suns.
After missing the previous 1½ games, Davis suited up for Game 6 and attempted to play. But the superstar big man looked tentative and lacked any explosive ability while failing to take a shot, and he went down in a heap in front of the Lakers’ bench with 6:35 left in the first quarter.
Los Angeles’ medical staff attended to Davis and escorted him to the locker room.
Mavericks put Clippers on brink
A first-round rematch between Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard has come to this: The first team to win at home takes the series.
Unless the visitors sweep seven games for the first time in NBA history.
Doncic, the young Dallas sensation, has the Mavericks one victory from their first postseason series win since the 2011 NBA Finals.
To get it, Dallas needs a victory in Game 6 on Friday night over Leonard, Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers, who evened the series with two double-digit victories on the road before the Mavericks’ 105-100 win Wednesday night at LA for a 3-2 lead.
Utah, the top seed in the Western Conference, awaits the series winner.
“It’s very obvious,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “We have got to play better basketball at home.”
The road team has never won the first six games of an NBA playoff series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Clippers, who beat Dallas in six games in the first round in the Florida playoff bubble last August, hope to make history. If they do, Game 7 will be in LA.
“We have to win on the road more than win at home if we want to become champions,” George said. “Yeah, we have to take care of home court, but we’ve got other jobs to do. At the end of the day, we still have an opportunity to close this at home if we get this win in Dallas.”
Doncic had two days to rest a neck strain that clearly was an issue in Game 4 and responded with 42 points, a playoff career-high 14 assists and eight rebounds. LeBron James is the only other player with similar numbers in a playoff game.
Jazz eliminate Grizzlies
Donovan Mitchell scored 26 of his 30 points in the first half and the Utah Jazz advanced to the second round of the playoffs, beating the Memphis Grizzlies, 126-110, in Game 5 in Salt Lake City and taking the series, 4-1.
“I think setting the tone was huge. We did that as unit on both ends of the floor and understanding that you can’t give a team like that life,” Mitchell said about Utah’s quick start.
Mitchell also had 10 assists and six rebounds in 29 minutes.
The Memphis Grizzlies believe they have a great foundation after returning to the playoffs much faster than anyone outside the franchise expected.
That makes losing their first-round series to the top-seeded Jazz a little easier to take.
“We definitely didn’t want our season to end the way it did, but I mean we have a lot to be proud of,” guard Ja Morant said after Memphis was eliminated in five games by Utah. “Our fight. We had an unbelievable season. We achieved one of our goals … We know what we got to do. Everybody’s hungry for more.”
Knicks fans still jubilant
Everyone was about to head home for the summer when a “Let’s go Knicks! Let’s go Knicks!” chant broke out at the end of Game 5 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
After years of disappointing them, the New York Knicks had given their fans a team they couldn’t get enough of.
“I think we’re bringing a brand of basketball back that the city can be proud of,” Julius Randle said.
Now the Knicks will work on giving them one that can be a regular contender again.
A surprising first season under Tom Thibodeau ended with a 4-1 loss in the first round to the Atlanta Hawks. It was the Knicks’ first postseason appearance since 2013 and one that was unexpected.
“I don’t think anyone saw them doing what they did,” Thibodeau said. “Everyone doubted them all year. They didn’t doubt themselves. So there was a great belief. They worked as hard as they could possibly work.”
Randle emerged as an All-Star and was the runaway winner of the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. The rest of the Knicks quickly took to Thibodeau’s defensive schemes and overachieved their way to a 41-31 record and the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Wizards quiet on coach
The first topic raised with Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard the day after the team’s season ended was the topic that will hang over the offseason until a decision is announced: Will coach Scott Brooks be back?
“We’re not doing anything about that today,” Sheppard replied during a video conference with reporters on Thursday, before praising Brooks for “keeping this team together through some of the most difficult, dark moments probably in franchise history.”
Not surprisingly, Brooks said he wants to return; his five-year, $35 million contract is expiring.
“I wouldn’t want to move on,” he said. “I love it here. I love the city.”