Blazers force Game 7 with 119-108 victory over Nuggets

Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton, left, shoots over Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
Updated 10 May 2019
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Blazers force Game 7 with 119-108 victory over Nuggets

  • Portland Trailblazers has not advanced to the conference finals since the 2000 playoffs
  • The winner of Sunday’s game will face the winner of the series between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets

PORTLAND, Oregon: Damian Lillard had 32 points, including 17 in the third quarter, and the Portland Trail Blazers staved off elimination to force a decisive Game 7 in their series with Denver with a 119-108 victory on Thursday night.
The Nuggets head home with a chance to make it to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2009. Denver has been to the conference finals three times in franchise history.
The winner of Sunday’s game will face the winner of the series between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. The defending NBA champion Warriors have a 3-2 advantage in the series after a 104-99 victory on Wednesday night. Game 6 is set for Friday in Houston.
CJ McCollum added 30 points for the Blazers, who haven’t advanced to the conference finals since the 2000 playoffs. Rodney Hood came off the bench with a career playoff-high 25 points and fans at the Moda Center drowned out his postgame on-court interview by chanting “Rodney! Rodney!“
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 29 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray added 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Seth Curry’s 3-pointer gave the Blazers a 101-88 lead with 7:24 left. Things got heated midway through the final period after Jokic was called for an offensive foul and the players got into a shoving match and had to be separated. After a review, there were offsetting technicals involving Denver’s Will Barton and Torrey Craig, and Curry and Zach Collins for Portland.
Lillard hit an off-balance jumper that put Portland up 106-93. The Nuggets got within 113-103 with 1:04 left, but Craig and Jokic fouled out and Portland closed out the win.
The Nuggets were in this situation before: They lost on the road to San Antonio in Game 6 in the opening round, forcing that series to return to Denver for the deciding game.
After Portland won the quadruple-overtime marathon of Game 3, Denver beat Portland at home to even the series. Then Paul Millsap had 24 points to spark Denver’s 124-98 blowout of the Blazers on Tuesday night — and put Portland on the verge of elimination.
Maurice Harkless dunked to start the game and the crowd at the Moda Center booed each time Jokic got the ball. But the Nuggets built an early 16-7 lead after Murray’s 3-pointer.
Denver extended the lead to as many as 10 points in the opening quarter but Portland went on an 11-4 run to start the second quarter that closed the gap to 38-37.
The Blazers tied it at 45 but Jokic’s basket held them at bay until Lillard’s 3-pointer gave Portland the lead. Lillard added a layup to extend it and Portland led 58-54 at halftime after outscoring the Nuggets 32-20.
Torrey Craig’s 3-pointer tied the game at 69-all midway through the third quarter, but the Nuggets were unable to pull back in front until Jokic 3-pointer made it 76-75. Lillard answered with his own 3 to reclaim the lead.
Lillard’s sixth 3-pointer of the game put Portland up 83-78. He had 17 points in the third quarter alone and the Blazers led 87-80 going into the fourth.
Jokic collected his fourth foul with just over two minutes left in the third quarter and headed to the bench.

TIP INS
Nuggets: Denver won the regular-season series against the Blazers 3-1. ... Jokic led all scorers with 16 points in the first half. ... Gary Harris has scored in double figures for nine straight games.
Trail Blazers: Portland went to the playoffs for 21 straight seasons from 1983-2003. ... The Blazers team that last made the conference finals included Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis. Mike Dunleavy was the coach. Portland won its lone NBA title in 1977. ... Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers’ big man who was injured late in the season, watched from Portland’s bench in the second half.

UP NEXT
Game 7 is set for Sunday in Denver.


Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

Updated 23 May 2019
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Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

  • ‘I have an obligation to speak against atrocities,’ basketball star tells Arab News
  • ‘Whatever I am going through in my personal life doesn’t impact my performance on court’

CHICAGO: NBA superstar Enes Kanter says he loves his homeland Turkey as much as he loves professional basketball. 

Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Erdogan has arrested Kanter’s father, and bullied his family after accusing the basketball player of being part of the Hizmet movement of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president asserts was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Two years ago this week, Erdogan demanded that Kanter be arrested, and fears of violence from the Turkish state have gotten so bad that the FBI installed a panic button to help protect the player.

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression.

“His (Erdogan’s) regime’s and his hostility to me began in 2013 when I first start criticizing (the) government on unjust, unfair and illegal closures of college preparatory centers linked to businesspeople in the Hizmet movement,” Kanter said.

 “This closure pretty much became the first public clash between the Erdogan regime and the Hizmet movement,” he added.

“It was obvious that there was something that Erdogan doesn’t like about the Hizmet movement. Up until the closures of college preparatory centers, no one knew about that,” Kanter said.

“The way Erdogan handled this relationship was brutal, ruthless, unjust and unfair. I can’t stand for any of these, so I stood up against this tyranny and started criticizing. Neither Erdogan stopped his approach nor I, and we’ve kept clashing since then.”

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression. (AFP)

Kanter played for the Turkish national team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and for the Turkish U18 national team in 2009.

He led Turkey to the bronze medal at the European Championships in France, and was named Best Player and Best Center at the 2009 European Championships by Eurobasket.com. 

Kanter signed with the Utah Jazz in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015, the New York Knicks in 2017, and the Portland Trail Blazers in February this year.

The Trail Blazers lost the Western Division Playoffs, the first step to the NBA Championships, to California’s Golden State Warriors in the final game on Monday.

Erdogan’s threats have placed enormous pressure on Kanter, but he insists it has not impacted his performance or his commitment to help the people of Turkey.

“I’m a successful professional athlete, and whatever I’m going through in my private life would never impact my performance on court,” he said.

“They’re two different worlds for me … I’ve known nothing else but basketball … since I was 13, so I guess it’s pretty important,” he added.

“I see basketball and my platform as a way to teach the younger generation how to be successful and hopeful for the future,” Kanter said.

“Once you’re a successful professional athlete, younger generations see you as a role model, so … I’m trying to do my best to set my life as a role model to them,” he added.

“I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities. I believe that as a human being I should be standing for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech … Me being a celebrity makes it easier for people to hear, see and experience what I believe.”

I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities.

Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers center

On Erdogan, Kanter does not mince words. “He’s a dictator by definition. He silences media, destroys opposition, demonizes his critics … so all these make him a dictator,” Kanter said.

“Turkey deserves a leader who’s open minded, democratic, progressive, intelligent, modest and forward thinking, a leader who embraces everybody in the community regardless of their political choices.”

The harassment from Erdogan has put Kanter’s family at risk too. “I can’t say they’re safe when my dad lost his job and got jailed based on terrorism charges because I’m his son,” Kanter said. “These allegations are baseless and ridiculous, so how could I feel they’re safe?”

He said he respects Gulen and the Hizmet movement, rejecting Erdogan’s claims against them.

“I’m so close to Mr. Fethullah Gulen in terms of his life philosophy and teachings. I admire his way of extracting an individual’s inner potential … in order to be a better person in his or her community,” Kanter said.

“Erdogan should know that he’ll be brought to justice one day and pay for his mistakes. First, he should stop all his unjust, inhumane acts against the people of Turkey. Second, he should start making everybody’s life better in Turkey.”

Before moving to the US in 2009 to attend college in California, Kanter was a star basketball player in Turkey’s premier leagues.

He said despite playing for the NBA in the US, he still sees himself as a champion for Turkey and its people.

“I was Turkey’s best basketball player, and I’m still Turkey’s best basketball player. The only difference is that I’m now representing my country in the US. I left Turkey for a better opportunity in my career, to play in the NBA,” he added.

“I think everyone in society has an obligation to speak out on issues of human rights and democracy, and to stand tall against atrocities, inhumane practices and dictatorships,” Kanter said.

Celebrities like himself “have a bigger opportunity to make a difference and to raise awareness on such issues because of our platforms,” he added.

Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. (AFP)