LOS ANGELES – Jusuf Nurkic delivered 29 points and 15 rebounds en route to his fifth double-double of the NBA season as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Brooklyn Nets 127-125 on Friday.
The 23-year-old Bosnian center shot 12-of-19 from the field, but more importantly came up clutch in the final moments by producing the tiebreaking three-point play with 27 seconds left under the basket.
“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.”
No play was as significant as what took place with regulation time winding down in a 123-123 game.
With 30.6 seconds remaining, Nurkic drove to the basket but was blocked by DeMarre Carroll. Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert grabbed the rebound on a mad scramble under the rim with 28 seconds left but lost the ball to Nurkic, who then finished off 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,” teammate Damian 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’.”
Lillard said his team “could have easily been up against it” but for Nurkic’s “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 held on for the victory.
“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 three-pointer just before the buzzer that made it 92-92 heading into the final quarter.
Dinwiddie led eight Nets in double figures with 23 points. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 17, LeVert finished with 14 while Joe Harris tallied 13.
“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.”
Elsewhere, LeBron James finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists for his second triple-double of the season as the Cleveland Cavaliers edged the Charlotte Hornets 100-99.
Cleveland have won seven consecutive games and eight in a row over the Hornets.