Even within the friendly confines of the Moda Center, it was difficult to envision Portland winning Game 3 on Friday night without a strong performance from Damian Lillard. The Blazers All-Pro point guard finished the evening with 28 points on 24 shots, failing to find a rhythm as he went 2-of-9 from three. But Portland survived without its headliner on Friday behind 41 points from C.J. McCollum, retaining home-court advantage with a 140-137 quadruple-overtime victory. It was the first four-overtime game played in the postseason since 1953.
McCollum took the reins in what’s usually considered Dame Time. Aside from two key layups late in the third overtime, Lillard was quiet throughout the fourth quarter and the quartet of overtime periods, taking a backseat to his backcourt partner in crime. As Lillard largely rested on the perimeter for a slate of late-game possessions, McCollum earned the chance to show off his crunch-time chops. The six-year veteran delivered.
Game 3 proved to be a battle of attrition as regulation gave way to the overtime periods. Nikola Jokic slowed from half-speed to glacial. Lillard lost all semblance of lift on his jumper. Yet McCollum darted past the Denver defense as though it was the second quarter. He scored 28 of his 41 points after the third quarter and gave Portland a 122-121 lead with a clutch three late in the third overtime, then advanced the advantage to four with a triple on the next possession.
But it wasn’t just McCollum who made significant contributions. Enes Kanter finished the night with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Moe Harkless provided critical minutes and finished with 15 points and 10 boards. Seth Curry converted the game-clinching free throws. And Rodney Hood—after sitting out both the second and third OT periods—scored seven consecutive points for the Blazers in the fourth overtime, including a three with less than 20 seconds remaining to give Portland the lead for good.
Jokic’s fitness (or lack thereof) finally cost Denver in Game 3. Denver’s superstar center scored just three points in the overtime periods, tallying eight turnovers on the evening. Jokic looked largely disinterested in controlling the action following regulation, dumping the ball off to Jamal Murray and Will Barton on a consistent stream of possessions. Losing a contest when Jokic plays 65 minutes is devastating. The fatigue could carry over to Game 4.
McCollum looked downright spry as Jokic lumbered through crunch time, unsurprisingly so. The Lehigh product had the most miles run on offense per game in the regular season (h/t SI’s Rob Mahoney), logging 1.52 miles per contest. He potentially doubled that mark on Friday, and frankly looked ready for another 48 minutes postgame. His stamina came in handy on a rare subpar night from Lillard.
Portland is unquestionably Lillard territory. His 37-foot buzzer-beater to beat Oklahoma City will live on as one of the greatest moments in franchise history, as will his playoff game-winner to beat the Rockets in 2014. But don’t mistake the Blazers for a one-man band. McCollum is a top-flight sidekick, joining the rest of Portland’s supporting cast to carry the load in a critical Game 3 win. Lillard will have plenty of help as the Blazers eye their first conference finals appearance since 2000.