Nikola Jokic (25 points, 19 rebounds) and Paul Millsap (24 points, 8 rebounds) led Denver to a 124-98 win in Game 5 Tuesday night, pushing the Trail Blazers to the brink of elimination in the Western Conference semis.
Jamal Murray added 18 points and 9 assists, as the Nuggets took a 3-2 series lead.
Damian Lillard had 22 points in the loss, and says the Trail Blazers have yet to play their best basketball with their season no suddenly on the line.
Per The Denver Post:
“I think we came into this knowing how impactful (Millsap) could be with this lineup,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “He’s been phenomenal, but it’s not surprising for any of us.”
After back-to-back 30-point games from Murray and another fantastic showing from Jokic over Games 3 and 4 at Portland, Millsap carried the momentum early in Game 5.
“Off the court, he gives you 13 years of experience,” Malone. “To have a guy with that many playoff games, sitting next to a Torrey Craig, Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Monte Morris, guys that have never even come close to the playoffs. That experience, that mentorship means a lot. I think that’s really calming and reassuring for such a young group of players.”
Aside from their veteran leader and their two rising stars, the other thing going for the Nuggets is their palpable team chemistry. Monte Morris strolled down the Nuggets’ hallway during shootaround Tuesday morning with his arms draped around Craig and Harris. Will Barton stood in front of the trio laughing and soaking it in.
“I feel like our chemistry together is at an all-time high,” said Barton, who noted it started in training camp this year in San Diego.