After dropping two straight games, the Portland Trail Blazers came out and dominated the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of their best-of-seven series. Norman Powell led the charge for the Blazers on the offensive end with a game-high 29 points in Portland's 115-95 victory.
After holding a 10-point lead at the halftime break, the Trail Blazers really broke things wide open during the third quarter, as they outscored the Nuggets by 17 points during that frame alone. In the end, that deficit proved to be too much for Denver to overcome. As a result, the fourth quarter was largely garbage time with both teams emptying their respective benches.
With the win, Portland evens the series at 2-2. Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday night with the opening tip scheduled for 9 p.m. ET and NBATV handling the broadcast. Before moving on to that game though, here's a look at three major takeaways from Portland's win in Game 4.
1. Jusuf Nurkic got the best of Nikola Jokic this time
At one point in time, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic were teammates on the Nuggets. Then, the Nuggets decided to roll with Jokic and traded away Nurkic. Now, the former teammates are adversaries in the first-round series between Denver and Portland, and they had two very different performances on Saturday afternoon.
Jokic has had a stellar season, and he's very likely going to be crowned MVP in the coming weeks, but man, he had a rough outing in Game 4. In what was his worst game of the series by far, Jokic finished with 16 points on 7-for-18 shooting from the field, just one assist and two turnovers. Overall, he had a very tough time creating for himself, or his teammates. He was a team-low -32 in the 27 minutes that he was out on the floor, and he was often outclassed on both ends by Nurkic.
Jokic's poor play wasn't a complete coincidence, as Nurkic made things consistently difficult for him on the offensive end, and he also made him work defensively by going right at him. So while Jokic had his worst game of the series, Nurkic had his best. He tallied 17 points on only eight shots, and he was a +32 in his 27 minutes -- the polar opposite of Jokic's -32. It was just one game, but if it was the first time you saw either guy play, you would have come away thinking that Nurkic is the better big man. If that trend continues moving forward, the Blazers will almost certainly win the series.
2. Nuggets need more from Michael Porter Jr.
Since Jamal Murray went down with a season-ending injury in April, Michael Porter Jr. has emerged as Denver's second option behind Jokic. He was a finalist for the Most Improved Player Award as a result. However, in Game 4 against he was M.I.A. He played 23 minutes, but took just three shots and scored three points. That's just not going to get it done from a player that the Nuggets depend on for offensive output. Moving forward, the Nuggets will need Porter Jr. to be much more aggressive and look for his own shot more than he did in Game 4. When Porter Jr. is putting pressure on the defense it opens up opportunities for other Nuggets, and that wasn't what we saw on Saturday, as Porter Jr. finished with zero assists. Porter Jr. spent much of the season looking like a future star, but that wasn't the case in this game.
3. "The others" stepped up for Portland
Damian Lillard didn't have his best game on Saturday afternoon. He scored just 10 points on 1-for-10 shooting from the floor. Luckily, he had plenty of help. Portland's "others," as Shaquille O'Neal would say, really stepped up. If someone told you before the game that Lillard was going to score just 10 total points, you'd probably assume that the Blazers were not going to be able to pull out a win. But, that's exactly what happened. Lillard was Portland's fifth-leading scorer in Game 4, as the Blazers got other major contributions from Norman Powell (29 points), C.J. McCollum (21 points), and Jusuf Nurkic (17 points).
The fact that they were able to pull out a win despite an off afternoon from Lillard is a solid sign for the Blazers, and it could serve as a confidence booster for the rest of the roster. Lillard is obviously going to bounce back, but moving forward Portland should strive to continue to get a wide array of contributions on the offensive end, because often times it seems like Lillard has to do a vast majority of the heavy lifting when Portland is in possession of the ball. In Game 4, the Blazers showed that they have other players capable of carrying the load.