CJ McCollum Erupts as Blazers Beat Nuggets in Game 7; Will Play Warriors in WCF
DENVER, CO - MAY 12:  CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers goes to the basket against the Denver Nuggets during Game Seven of the Western Conference Semi-Finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2019 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

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The Portland Trail Blazers are headed to the Western Conference Finals after a Game 7 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

CJ McCollum was the star with 37 points in the 100-96 road win Sunday at Pepsi Center. His clutch shot in the final minute helped seal the win for Portland:

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  20. ASG Will Be Competitive Again If the NBA Raises the Stakes

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Damian Lillard struggled with his shot but still finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to help the Trail Blazers reach the third round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Denver appeared to be in control with as much as a 17-point lead in the first half, but Portland stormed back in the third and eventually secured the hard-fought victory.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets’ impressive season comes to an end despite 29 points from Nikola Jokic and 17 from Jamal Murray.

Blazers Need a Consistent Third Option to Get Past Dubs

This has been a dream season for the Trail Blazers with the postseason going extremely well after a couple of disappointing early exits. Unfortunately, the upcoming series can be a difficult one if things don’t go perfectly.

CJ McCollum was the clear star of Game 7, finishing with 37 on 17-of-29 shooting while looking unstoppable at times attacking the basket:

  1. McCollum and the Blazers Snapped Postseason Losing Streak for “Jennifer”

  2. Stars Invest in Plant-Based Food as Vegetarianism Sweeps NBA

  3. The NBA Got Some Wild Techs This Season

  4. Jarrett Allen Is One of the NBA’s Hottest Rim Protectors

  5. Wade’s Jersey Swaps Created Epic Moments This Season

  6. Westbrook Makes History While Honoring Nipsey Hussle

  7. Devin Booker Makes History with Scoring Tear

  8. 29 Years Ago, Jordan Dropped Career-High 69 Points

  9. Bosh Is Getting His Jersey Raised to the Rafters in Miami

  10. Steph Returns to Houston for 1st Time Since His Moon Landing Troll

  11. Lou Williams Is Coming for a Repeat of Sixth Man of the Year

  12. Pat Beverley Has the Clippers Stealing the LA Shine

  13. LeBron Keeps Shredding NBA Record Books

  14. Young’s Hot Streak Is Heating Up the ROY Race with Luka

  15. LeBron and 2 Chainz Form a Superteam to Release a New Album

  16. Wade’s #OneLastDance Dominated February

  17. Warriors Fans Go Wild After Unforgettable Moments with Steph

  18. Eight Years Ago, the Nuggets Traded Melo to the Knicks

  19. Two Years Ago, the Kings Shipped Boogie to the Pelicans

  20. ASG Will Be Competitive Again If the NBA Raises the Stakes

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He was the biggest reason the team was even competitive in the first half:

Royce Young @royceyoung

It’s kind of amazing the Blazers are only down nine at half, given how poorly that went. They’re shooting 30.4% , Lillard is 1-9 and everyone not named CJ is 7-34 from the floor.

The guard turned it on even more in the second half with 22 of his total points after halftime, even adding a huge defensive play in the fourth quarter:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

CJ AND THE C STANDS FOR CHASEDOWN

(via @NBCSNorthwest)
https://t.co/u6xx15aRzE

After several big games during this series, he showed that he probably deserves more than to be in the shadow of “Dame Time.”

On a night where Damian Lillard couldn’t get anything going while finishing 3-of-17 from the court, McCollum was exactly what Portland needed.

Of course, we know Lillard can carry the team as well when he is on, scoring at least 28 points in eight of 12 games this postseason. This included his 50-point effort in the clinching win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Lillard and McCollum combine to make one of the top backcourts in the NBA, and a big game from either one is enough to beat most teams in the league.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to beat the Warriors.

Golden State has an offense that just doesn’t quit, leading the NBA in offensive efficiency this year, per Basketball Reference. Even if Kevin Durant is less than 100 percent, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have shown that they can still light up the scoreboard and make the team near impossible to defend.

If the Trail Blazers want to keep up, they will need both guards to play well and at least one other player to emerge as a go-to option.

Rodney Hood looked like that player at times this series, but he left Sunday’s game with a hyperextended knee and only had six points in 20 minutes before the injury. While the wing was outstanding in Game 6, he was also nearly absent in the team’s losses.

The same could be said about Enes Kanter, who was a key part of the Game 7 win with 12 points and 13 rebounds. The problem is he had gone three straight games without hitting double figures before this one.

Evan Turner also played well Sunday with 14 points and seven boards, which was once again a change from the rest of the series:

Zach Lowe @ZachLowe_NBA

Evan Turner had three baskets and one made free throw the entire playoffs combined before this game.

It’s clear the Blazers have talent, but whether it’s one of these players or Seth Curry or someone else, they won’t be able to win another series without one of the players providing legitimate production every single night.

What’s Next?

Portland will now take on the defending champion Golden State Warriors, who could be without the injured Kevin Durant for part or all of the series. While the squad will be the underdog in the conference finals, the recent success should provide plenty of hope for an upset in the upcoming series.

This article will be updated to provide more information soon.

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