Jokic scores 38, Nuggets beat Blazers 128-109 to even series

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Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter (11) in the first quarter of Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Monday, May 24, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

DENVER – Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets played with an unspoken sense of urgency.

“Because if you're going to talk about it, you're not going to do it,” the big man reasoned.

So no talk, just a much more physical mentality.

Jokic scored 38 points to overcome a 3-point shooting barrage from Damian Lillard and the Nuggets evened the first-round series by beating the Portland Trail Blazers 128-109 on Monday night in a chippy Game 2.

“They picked up the aggressiveness and we did it, too,” Jokic said. “We met their aggressiveness, maybe even a little bit higher.”

Jokic also had eight rebounds and five assists, which was four more than he dished out in Game 1 when the Blazers made sure the big man didn’t beat him with his pinpoint passing.

The third-seeded Nuggets had few answers for Lillard early on as the dynamic playmaker scored 32 of his 42 points in the first half. His eight 3-pointers before intermission tied an NBA playoff record for most in a half. Lillard finished 9 of 16 from 3-point range.

A change of plans at halftime helped slow down Lillard. Denver put the 6-foot-9 Aaron Gordon on the 6-2 guard.