Nurkic scores 29 points as Trail Blazers hold off Nets
NEW YORK — Jusuf Nurkic produced the play of the game for the Portland Trail Blazers but when the final buzzer sounded, he was apologizing to Damian Lillard for some of the things he didn’t do well.
For Lillard and the rest of the Trail Blazers, there was no need for Nurkic to be remorseful.
Not after he produced the tiebreaking three-point play with 27.6 seconds remaining by hustling under the rim Friday afternoon as Portland beat the Brooklyn Nets, 127-125.
“I learn to never quit, and there’s no lost possession until the game is done,” Nurkic said. “We’re going to fight. I saw an opportunity to get the ball and try to make a play and it went in.”
Nurkic produced his fifth double-double of the season with 29 points on 12-of-19 shooting and 15 rebounds. No play was as significant as what unfolded with regulation time winding down in a 123-123 game.
With 30.6 seconds remaining, Jurkic drove to the rim only to get blocked by DeMarre Carroll. Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert grabbed the rebound on a scramble under the rim with 28.2 seconds left but lost the ball to Nurkic, who went right back up and converted a reverse layup for a 125-123 lead while being fouled by Spencer Dinwiddie.
“It was good to see that type of passion and that energy,” Lillard said. “After the game, he was telling me, ‘my bad, I missed the free throws, I did this, I did that.’ I stopped him in the hallway (and said) ‘I don’t care about none of that. The most important thing is you made the biggest play of the game’
“We could have easily been up against it. He got his hand on the ball, caught it, went up strong, finished and one. That was the play of the game and that’s just him making the winning play and staying with it. When you do things like that, you give yourself a chance.”
Nurkic then made the foul shot for a 126-123 lead and the Blazers sweated out the rest of the game.
Their lead was cut to 126-125 when Dinwiddie cut to the rim for a hoop with 15.7 seconds remaining. It was 127-125 when CJ McCollum split a pair at the line with 11.4 seconds left.
After Brooklyn called its last timeout, Dinwiddie missed a 25-foot 3-pointer and Nurkic was fouled by Carroll with 2.3 seconds remaining. Nurkic then missed both foul shots but wisely used the foul to give with eight-tenths of a second remaining and Portland secured its 11th win when Joe Harris heaved a 3-pointer from beyond midcourt that would not have counted.
“It was a game that we had to go and get,” Lillard said. I don’t think it was an easy game at all. We had to fight for it down the stretch and I was happy with the things we had to do to make plays.”
Lillard led the Blazers with 34 points, including a 3-pointer just before the buzzer that forged a 92-92 tie into the fourth. He missed all four of his field goals but made two free throws and blocked a shot by Jarrett Allen as Portland rallied from a 121-115 deficit in the final two-plus minutes.
McCollum added 11 of his 26 points in the fourth as Portland rebounded from missing its first 13 shots and shooting a season-worst 33.7 percent in Wednesday’s 20-point loss at Philadelphia.
The Nets lost for the 10th time in 13 games by wilting down the stretch. After giving up 18 straight points to Cleveland superstar LeBron James in the fourth quarter Wednesday, the Nets missed six of their eight shots down the stretch.
“Disappointing,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. “You know, games come down to the end like that and go either way. I thought they made the big plays, and we shot ourselves in the foot a few times.”
The Nets never led by more than six points in the fourth. After Allen Crabbe’s floater put them up 121-116 with 2:20 remaining, Brooklyn missed its next five shots, including three layups.
“None of the guys in the locker room play for moral victories, and we’re playing to get wins every game,” Dinwiddie said. “So it was tough to put in that effort and come up short.”
Dinwiddie led eight Nets in double figures with 23 points. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 17, LeVert finished with 14 while Harris contributed 13 in a game where the Nets shot 50 percent, scored 66 points in the paint and 22 second-chance points.
NOTES: Portland F Pat Connaughton made his second career start Friday when he started in place of F Maurice Harkless. Connaughton’s previous start occurred April 10 vs. San Antonio. Connaughton scored four points in 15 minutes while Harkless played 19 minutes. ... F Trevor Booker was available after missing Wednesday’s game with a sprained left ankle. ... Brooklyn opted to start C Tyler Zeller at center for the second straight game. ... Portland F Al-Farouq Aminu missed his 11th straight game with an injured right ankle.