Michael Porter Jr. & Devin Booker go off

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Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets on a furious comeback, Damian Lillard ran out of gas, Anthony Davis should have never played through his groin injury, LeBron James couldn’t do it all by himself and Devin Booker went all Lillard on the Lakers to set the stage for the NBA’s version of the Final Four on Thursday night. Follow me on Twitter!

Nuggets 126, Blazers 115 – Nuggets win series 4-2, will face Suns in Round 2

Michael Porter Jr. went nuts in the first quarter, scoring 22 points in just 10 minutes and knocking down six 3-pointers to set an NBA record for 3-pointers in a quarter. He finished with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting with five rebounds, four assists and a steal. It’s too bad he didn’t do much after the first quarter, or he might have had a game for the ages. But it wasn’t too shabby and the Nuggets got a huge win and took a series many people didn’t think they could win without Jamal Murray. And he’s just getting started on his NBA journey.

Nikola Jokic went berserk in the third quarter when he scored 20 points and led the Nuggets on a furious comeback, and finished with 36 points (27 in the second half), eight rebounds, six assists, a steal and two 3-pointers. He also hit 8-of-8 free throws and showed the world, once again, why he’s the MVP this season. He led the Nuggets on a 35-11 run to end the game and I’m not sure there’s any more to say about him. But if you feel the need for more Jokic love, just check out anything Drew Dinkmeyer has written in the last six months. That dude rides Jokic harder than I ride Luka and Trae.

Monte Morris came through once again with 22 points, nine assists, three steals and three 3-pointers (Jamal who?), Facundo Campazzo posted a fantasy-friendly line of 10 points, two rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer, JaMychal Green had 10 points and nine boards off the bench, and Aaron Gordon had 13 points, seven boards, four assists, a steal, a block and a couple 3-pointers, one of which was basically a dagger in this series. Yeah, the Nuggets don’t have Murray, but they’ve got Jokic and a bunch of guys who are peaking and I think they’re going to beat the Suns in the Western Semis.

Damian Lillard finally ran out of gas after an incredible performance in this series and finished with 28 points, four rebounds, 13 assists, two steals and three 3-pointers on 8-of-20 shooting. C.J. McCollum hit 9-of-21 shots for 21 points, four boards, three assists, a block and two 3-pointers, Norman Powell (a free agent) had 17 points and three 3-pointers, Jusuf Nurkic (who finally didn’t foul out) had 13 points, seven boards and two blocks, and Robert Covington added 11 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, a block and three 3-pointers to round out the starters. It’s too bad RoCo can’t bottle this and do it every night, but he had a pretty inconsistent season. Carmelo Anthony came off the bench for 14 points in 23 minutes and the Blazers are going fishing. Lillard hit just 1-of-6 shots in the fourth quarter and just ran out of gas after scoring 34, 42, 37, 10 and 55 points in the previous five games of this series.

Lillard did everything he could (again) and you have to wonder if the Blazers are ready to shake things up this offseason. They’re always good with Lillard running the show, but never good enough to get it done. Simply put, he needs more help.

Suns 113, Lakers 100 – Suns win series 4-2, will face Nuggets in Round 2

Approximately two hours after Michael Porter Jr. set an NBA record with six 3-pointers in the first quarter against the Blazers, Devin Booker did the same thing against the Lakers, hitting six triples in the first quarter. Booker basically couldn’t miss tonight, hitting 15-of-22 shots, 8-of-10 3-pointers and 9-of-9 free throws for a season-high 47 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and a block in the series-clinching win. Booker scored 34, 31, 19, 17, 30 and 47 points in these six games and took another step toward becoming one of the league’s next superstars, if he’s not already there. Jae Crowder added 18 points before being ejected for some bizarre salsa dance, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson both scored 10 points, and Chris Paul fought through his right shoulder injury for eight points, two rebounds and 12 assists on 4-of-12 shooting. Paul’s shoulder will not be right for the rest of these playoffs and that doesn’t bode well for their matchup against the Nuggets. Deandre Ayton finally fell back to earth for eight points, three rebounds and one assist, and might have hurt his shoulder tonight. The Suns are going to need him to go back to being all-world Ayton against Jokic in Round 2, but he just never got it going last night.

As for the Lakers, Anthony Davis defied the odds and suited up for last night’s game despite his painful left groin injury but never looked right, lasting just five minutes before shutting it down. Charles Barkley, who was campaigning for AD (Street Clothes) to get out there and play last night, asked a pretty good question after AD was shut down for the night: “Who cleared AD to play? Dr. Kevorkian?” Well played, Sir Charles.

LeBron James led the way with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers on 11-of-26 shooting, but just couldn’t do it all by himself and eventually ran out of gas. The Lakers were down big early in this one, mounted a comeback to cut the lead to 10, and then predictably ran out of steam. The final score doesn’t do justice to how badly the Suns beat the Lakers last night. Dennis Schroder did his best with 20 points, three boards, three assists, a steal and two 3-pointers on 6-of-14 shooting, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was instrumental in the comeback with 19 points and three 3-pointers on 7-of-11 shooting, and Wesley Matthews and Talen Horton-Tucker both scored 12 points in the loss.

The Lakers were never in this series after Davis went down in the first half of Game 4 and were outscored by the Suns by 58 points by halftime of Game 6. LeBron was booted in the first round for the first time in history and is now 14-1 in first-round series, and the Lakers are looking forward to a full three months of recovery time to get ready for next season.

Last year’s Bubble Final Four were the Lakers, Heat, Celtics and Nuggets, and all but the Nuggets are going home. Here are the results of last season’s Final 8 teams:

Raptors – Missed the play-in tourney

Bucks – Swept the Heat and will face the Nets in Round 2

Heat (Finals) – Swept in Round 1 by the Bucks

Celtics – Beaten in Round 1 by the Nets

Nuggets – Beat the Blazers and will face Suns in Round 2

Clippers – Facing elimination by Dallas at Dallas for Game 6 on Friday

Rockets – Missed play-in tourney

Lakers (Champions) – Eliminated by Suns in six games in Round 1

The Bubble and shortened offseason obviously took a toll on these teams which makes what Jokic is doing even more incredible. Dude didn’t even miss a game this season.

Predictions

East

1. Sixers vs. 5. Hawks

I think the Hawks match up really well vs. the Sixers and Joel Embiid (torn meniscus) is going to be playing on one leg. Clint Capela is an underrated defender, De’Andre Hunter can effectively handle Tobias Harris and Trae Young is not scared of anything. And the Hawks are DEEP. The Sixers appear to be ripe for the Hawks’ picking and I’ve got the Hawks in 6 games. And you can make it 5 games if Embiid doesn’t play.

2. Nets vs. 3. Bucks

The Nets Big 3 are simply better than the Bucks Solid 3 and I just can’t see the Nets losing this series if they’re healthy. I’ve got the Nets in 6.

West

1. Jazz vs. 4. Clippers/5. Mavericks

I think the Mavs (3-2 lead) are going to close their series out against the Clippers on Friday night at home, finally becoming the first team in this series to win while sleeping in their own beds. But the Mavericks’ defense just isn’t good enough to lead Luka Doncic to another series win and I’ve got the Jazz in 6 games. And that prediction will stand if they’re playing the Clippers. But make no mistake, I’ll be pulling for the Mavericks and hoping my prediction is wrong all the way.

2. Suns vs. 3. Nuggets

Everyone (except for, seemingly, me) said the Nuggets were done without Jamal Murray. But MVP-to-be Nikola Jokic won’t be denied and he’s going to make life miserable for Ayton, who struggled in last night’s win. Michael Porter Jr. is no longer a secret, Monte Morris and Facundo Campazzo are real and Aaron Gordon is a serviceable forward. And the Nuggets should get Will Barton back soon. Give me the Nuggets in 6, as I’m not betting against Jokic and stellar coaching by Michael Malone. And CP3’s bum shoulder, along with Davis’ groin injury and Embiid’s knee injury, are going to be huge storylines in these series. Give me the healthy guys.