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CJ McCollum takes acclaim after starring in Portland Trail Blazers' Game 7 win over Denver Nuggets

Monday 13 May 2019 09:43, UK

CJ McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates their win against the Denver Nuggetts during Game Seven of the Western Conference Semi-Finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs 1:58
CJ McCollum's 37 points helped the Blazers come back from 17 down to beat the Nuggets in Game 7

Denver head coach Mike Malone has credited CJ McCollum with putting the Portland Trail Blazers 'on his back' during their Game 7 victory over the Nuggets.

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McCollum scored 37 points, including a fadeaway jumper with 11.4 seconds remaining, as the Blazers rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit to beat the Nuggets 100-96 in their Western Conference semi-final decider on Sunday.

As the Blazers' All-Star guard Damian Lillard struggled to 13 points on 3-17 shooting, McCollum picked up the slack, going 17-29 from the floor to inspire his team for victory.

CJ McCollum soars for a dunk in Game 7 against the Nuggets
Image: CJ McCollum soars for a dunk in Game 7 against the Nuggets

"CJ McCollum showed why they have one of the best backcourts in the NBA," Malone said.

"(He) put his team on his back and made big play after big play."

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McCollum, who also had nine rebounds, made a series of trademark tough shots to keep the shorthanded Blazers afloat, after they lost Rodney Hood to injury during the second half.

Lillard deservedly drew many accolades for his opening-round performances against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but was content to take a back seat with McCollum on form.

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"I thought the game opened up a lot because of what CJ was doing, getting downhill, getting into the paint," Lillard said.

"I just tried to focus on making the right plays. CJ had it going and I think when I see him in that type of zone, I'm not going to shy away from the game, I'm going to still be involved in the game."

Having reached the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2000, the Blazers will face the Golden State Warriors.

DENVER, CO - MAY 12: Damian Lillard high-fives Al-Farouq Aminu #8 and CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers  against the Denver Nuggetsduring Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2019 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
Image: Damian Lillard struggled to 13 points on 3-17 shooting during Game 7

For the Blazers to have a chance of advancing against the two-time reigning champions, they will likely need both McCollum and Lillard at their best.

"It's a luxury to have two guys like that who can find different ways to score in different ways," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.

"CJ does it one way, Dame does it in another. On a night when Dame struggled shooting the ball, CJ came up big."

The Trail Blazers face the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in the early hours of Wednesday morning, live on Sky Sports Arena.

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