The Denver Nuggets are moving on to the next round of the NBA Playoffs where they will square off with the Phoenix Suns after they eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers with a 126-115 victory in Game 6 on Thursday night.
Leading the way for the Nuggets, as usual, was superstar big man Nikola Jokic, who provided an MVP level of play in Denver’s impressive first round series victory.
“I love our team. I love every player in that locker room, one through seventeen,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, according to ESPN’s Royce Young. “We continue to find ways to win. Last year, this year, people don’t realize what we’re missing right now with injuries, so I couldn’t be more proud of a group of players that I truly love coaching every single day.”
Jokic scored 20 of his 36 points in the third quarter which fueled the Nuggets comeback from a 14-point deficit.
“That’s why he’s the clear-cut MVP,” Malone said. “Because you can take anybody away from our team, if we have Nikola, you could put me, Wes Unseld, Ryan Bowen, Charles Klask, whoever you want out there, we’re going to find a way to compete because that’s how great he is.”
“We got a lot of dudes that are tough players, man,” Porter said. “Like me, I had my moment in the first half and then I cooled off. I don’t think I scored [the rest of the game]. Then Jokic obviously took over, but the way Austin and AG had their moments, and Monte, J-Myke — we just have a lot of dudes that are capable.”
“The first quarter, I was not even that aggressive. I didn’t want to force it,” Jokic said. “Like why [try] to force when I have a really good scorer going? So why would I maybe make him cold or whatever, make him angry, so I can sacrifice myself a couple minutes or a quarter?”
The series featured a battle of two of the league’s brightest stars in Jokic and Blazers’ superstar Damian Lillard, who had nothing but praise for Jokic following the series ending loss.
“He’s everything for them,” Lillard said of Jokic. “I think if it was any year a guy like him, what he does for that team, could lead his team to a championship, it would be this year because of how open it is. There’s no favorite. In my eyes, at least, I feel like anybody can get beat and anybody can go get it done. That’s why it’s even more disappointing for me, because I felt like if there’s any year you can shoulder the load and go get one, it was this one. I definitely think he’s capable of it.”
“I just told our team this, hell of a win to come in here and win a Game 6 on the road is great. But we’re not satisfied,” Malone said. “Our goal coming into the season was not to get out of the first round. We have much bigger goals.”