In a spectacular overtime finish, the Portland Trail Blazers survived the Denver Nuggets 115-113 on the road behind a buzzer-beating game winner from Damian Lillard. There's a lot to digest here - and the shot was hardly the only highlight of the evening, so let's just get started.
There were a few standout performances but this game belonged to Lillard - he led the Blazers with a ridiculous statline (37 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and a block to boot).
It was fitting that during this game the Nuggets honored Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo by retiring his number 55 in a halftime ceremony because for most of the opening period Jusuf Nurkic channeled his inner-"Deke", eating Mason Plumlee alive for eight points and one big-time block. The Bosnian bruiser could do no wrong in the post and Denver kept pace with the Blazers for much of the first quarter, if not just pounding the ball inside, using their overwhelming size to secure the offensive rebound. Lillard served as the counter, scoring eight of his own, again mostly off the dribble and right into the teeth opponent's defense. But it would only be an appetizer for what was to come.
End of First: Portland 33, Denver 28
The second period belonged to Lillard, who scored 13 points and thoroughly dominated from the point he checked in at the 7:33 mark. He got to work immediately, blowing by Nurkic to the rack for an easy layup and then fading away over Jameer Nelson, looking every bit the MVP candidate he and many others have declared himself to be. A walk-up heat check three-pointer extended Portland's lead to double-digits at 51-41, which grew to 11 - figuratively as well as literally - on a devastating running dunk from who else but Lillard. Evan Turner found a bit of comfort himself off the bench, adding six points of his own and the Blazers looked strong heading into the locker room.
Halftime: Portland 62, Denver 54
For the first few minutes of the third third quarter Portland looked like it would pick up where it left off in the first half, with LIllard again flashing impressive quickness and finishing ability, just blowing by the likes of Nurkic and his front-court mate Nikola Jokic, but things soon came crashing down. In a total reversal from the preceding 27 minutes, the Blazers suddenly went ice-cold, going scoreless of over five minutes while Denver rattled off a 14-0 run before Lillard drew free throws on a three-point attempt. But by then Denver had seized complete control, leading 76-73 and grew its advantage as large as 12 by the end of the period on Kenneth Faried's running dunk. If the Nuggets weren't driving the lane with impunity, they were earning trips to the foul line. Turner managed to restore a bit of momentum heading into the final frame, canning a straightaway three as time expired.
End of Third: Portland 81, Denver 88
If the evening hadn't already been eventful enough, just minutes into the fourth quarter a power outage shut down the Pepsi Center, delaying the game for over 20 minutes with Denver holding a five point lead at 90-85. When play finally resumed, it was the Nuggets who looked better re-grouped, as Portland continued to be all out of sorts. An Emmanuel Mudiay three pushed the deficit to 9 at 98-89 before Jokic's tip-in again restored a 10-point lead with just over five minutes remaining. After scoring 28 points through the first three quarters, Lillard was held to just five in the fourth. His transition three at 47 ticks pulled them within five, and C.J. McCollum's driving and-1 layup on the next possession made it just a two-point game. With several opportunities to put the Blazers away, Denver instead left the door wide open, bumbling the ensuing inbound pass out of bounds, and then after Lillard lost the ball on Portland's first would-be game-tying possession, Wilson Chandler missed two free throws, giving the Blazers one last shot. Coming out of a time out, coach Terry Stotts drew up a play that worked to perfection - somehow, the Nuggets lost sight of Lillard, who out of the inbound darted unopposed to the rim to catch and finish the alley-oop layup lob from Plumlee to force overtime.
End of Fourth: Portland 104, Denver 104
The same intensity carried over to the extra period - first Denver jumped out to a quick four-point lead on Jokic's 12-footer, but Portland battled back, mostly behind McCollum, who took over the offense after Lillard started to look gassed. C.J.'s running floater tied the game at 113 with 34 seconds remaining, and then a good defensive stand on the next possession set the tables for an unbelievable finish. Dribbling down the clock, Lillard blew by Faried at the top of the key and floated it up and in with just 0.3 seconds to go. Dame. Winner.
It doesn't get any easier - the Trail Blazers return to the Moda Center Tuesday to host Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors - tip is set for 7 p.m. and will be nationally televised on NBATV. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dan Marang.
-- Ryan Rosback | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter