"We kept competing."
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts summed up the Trail Blazers overtime thriller with that one simple statement.
Sure, he had a lot more to say, but really what needs to be said is there was no quit in Portland on Friday when the Blazers faced the Memphis Grizzlies.
The energy and emotion was felt over the television airwaves.
The impact on both ends by Jusuf Nurkic was clearly felt by the Trail Blazers in their come from behind, high-scoring, 140-135 win over the Grizzlies in the first seeding game of these two teams' NBA restart.
Between CJ McCollum and Nurkic's playmaking ability, the Blazers were on the same page offensively and shared the wealth on that end of the floor. Portland finished the game with 27 assists as a team.
After nearly a year and a half, Nurkic made his official return, and gave it everything he had even while playing with a heavy heart.
"I'm just glad we win that game, man," Nurkic said postgame. "I've been preparing for this moment for the last 16 months… We have a playoff mentality already. I'm just grateful we win this game and I give whatever I could to get a win."
[Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast with special guest Bill Walton]
Nurkic also let the world know after the win:
Everybody see now that the scrimmages didn't matter.
Insert a mic drop here from the Bosnian Beast.
Nurkic, though, began his postgame interview with a message for people to take the coronavirus seriously as he informed us that his grandmother tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
"Right now, as far as I know, she's in a coma," Nurkic said. "People don't understand how serious this s*** is."
Nurkic's grandmother, Hana, who lives in Bosnia, told her grandson about contracting the virus while on a Facetime call with him last Friday.
Nurkic said he considered not playing and leaving the Orlando bubble to go see her.
"She didn't want to go to the hospital in the first place," Nurkic explained. "I said, if you don't go, I'm coming."
But after careful thought, Nurkic decided to stay with his team, saying, "I don't know if I can help her more if I went there."
Now knowing how Nurkic played through the news of his grandmother's illness, and still managed to fill up the stat sheet and help the Blazers come away with a win, that will melt anyone's heart.
Nurkic is a competitor, there's no doubt about that.
The 7-footer's competitive nature along with the Blazers' ball movement were two huge keys to Portland's success against the team they are chasing in the standings. Those two keys are what Nurk highlighted after the game.
We know, they know -- this is probably the most important game of the bubble for us… My mind was just get a win. I don't care how much I [score] or touches or whatever, I just need to do whatever I could to win the game. -- Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic added that he thought the teams' ball movement was "much better," saying, "look at our pace before, and before I was not able to play, and now I think it's a totally different team. We run a lot of new plays and stuff like that. So I think for us, this is just going up and we build from this."
The big fella finished with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting, while hitting a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line to go along with his nine rebounds, six blocks, five assists, and two steals before fouling out after 33 minutes of play.
Coach Stotts' wasn't the least bit surprised with Nurkic's performance.
"I thought he impacted the game. Last time we played Memphis, obviously we didn't have him and he affected the game -- defensively he made some big plays. He just played a game you would expect Nurk to play at both ends of the court," coach Stotts said postgame.
Now Nurkic and the Blazers will look to build off their momentum and continue to climb up the Western Conference standings with Nurkic carrying a lot both on and off the court.