Blazers hold off Nuggets to level playoff series

McCollum registers 20 points for the Trail Blazers. (AFP pic)

LOS ANGELES: C.J. McCollum scored 20 points as the Portland Trail Blazers held off a late rally from the Denver Nuggets to score a series-levelling victory in their NBA Western Conference playoff duel on Wednesday.

McCollum led the scorers in a hard-fought 97-90 victory on the road at Denver’s Pepsi Center to tie the best-of-seven series at 1-1.

Portland talisman Damian Lillard had a relatively quiet night, restricted to just 14 points after shooting five-of-17 from the field.

However double-digit contributions Enes Kanter, Zach Collins, Rodney Hood and Al-Farouq Aminu helped Portland get over the line.

The Blazers had looked to be cruising towards a comfortable victory after a dominant first half, surging into a 50-35 lead at the break.

Portland had opened up a 17-point lead early in the third quarter, and led by 14 heading into the final period.

That however was the cue for a sustained Denver assault, with the Nuggets slowly chipping away at the Portland lead.

A driving layup from Nikola Jokic put Denver within five points at 95-90 with 34 seconds left on the clock.

But a foul by Mason Plumlee gifted two free throws to Hood, who coolly drained both attempts to take the Blazers 97-90 clear with 17 seconds remaining.

Jokic led the Denver scorers with 16 points while Jamal Murray added 15. Paul Millsap finished with 14 points.

Game three in the series takes place in Portland on Friday.