The Blazers showed up for two and half quarters. Michael Porter Jr couldn’t miss. He had 22 first quarter points. But, the Blazers answered. Hitting their shots, poking the ball away, snatching rebounds. A little of this, a little of that. They had fight in them. They fed off the crowd. The Blazers bench seemed to hold the fort as Lillard rested. The Blazers led after the 1st. The team the led after the first won the 5 other games. The Blazers led at halftime. The Blazers had an energetic start to the third. It looked like the series might head back to Denver for game 7. Nothing easy. The Blazers led by 13, looked like they would not be denied. Like Lillard would keep his promise to Denver fans that he would return. But, it wouldn’t be.
The momentum turned in the 2nd half of the third quarter as the Blazers went cold. Jokic took over. The lead dropped to 10 then 7 then 4 as Jusuf Nurkic who hadn’t got called for a single foul in the 1st half got stuck with four of them in the third quarter. The gas tank had run dry. Lillard who had given his all in 52 minutes of play and 55 points in game 5 was done. He had nothing left. His teammates deflated around him, clank, clank, clank, clank. Aaron Gordon and Austin Rivers finished off the Blazers with threes and the Nuggets celebrated as the buzzer sounded, and they took the series 4-2, winning game 6 126-115.
The Blazers players met the Nuggets at halfcourt and shook hands and embraced. Inside they were broken. During postgame conferences Nurkic implied he might not be a Blazer next season and that changes needed to be made. Lillard cried and was a at a loss for words. In the moment it felt like what the Blazers did to the Thunder back in 2019. It felt as though the team, the arena, the city could all implode, collapse into a sinkhole. But, the emotions are raw now. The dust will settle. Maybe it is not as bad as it seems. Maybe this will usher some much needed change. Maybe we will look back as this moment as a catharsis for the team to head into the right direction. Maybe.