PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets are heading toward a Game 7 showdown after things got heated between the teams late in Thursday night’s contest.
A scuffle broke out midway through the fourth quarter of Portland’s 119-108 victory, during which Blazers guard Seth Curry and Denver forward Will Barton shoved each other. As the two were being separated, Barton appeared to poke Curry in the eye. Denver’s Torrey Craig and Portland’s Zach Collins also got into it as the skirmish escalated.
Officials handed out offsetting technical fouls for all four players.
Afterward, Curry took exception to the Nuggets’ actions, Barton’s in particular.
“He waited for a few people to get in between us, and when a few people were in between us, he put his finger in my eye,” Curry said of Barton. “You know what I’m saying. I can’t allow people to put their fingers in my eye.
“That’s real sassy. They got a few sassy dudes over there. Front-runners. And we can’t allow that.”
The incident occurred after Nuggets center Nikola Jokic drove to the rim and was called for an offensive foul, causing Collins to fall backward toward Barton’s legs. Curry came over to help Collins up and nudged Barton away. Barton pushed back, and the skirmish ensued.
Curry said he was surprised that Barton did not get ejected. Barton said he does not believe he will be suspended for Game 7 and explained that he was simply protecting himself from getting hurt after Collins fell toward him.
“It ain’t no beef,” Barton said. “I wasn’t even looking for that. I was just trying to protect myself. I guess he thought I was trying to stand on top of him and be tough. I was just trying to get out of the way before I got injured. He pushed me. I’m not going to let nobody push me. But that’s nothing.”
Craig got in the middle of Barton and Curry, and Collins shoved Craig. Portland’s Evan Turner then came over and held Craig at a distance. Officials took their time to examine the play before handing out the offsetting technical fouls with 6:16 remaining and Portland already up 104-90.
“I ain’t worried about no fines,” Barton said. “I ain’t trippin off that. Hopefully, [there’s] no suspension off that. I think if I [did something to get] suspended, I would probably have gotten ejected.”
“It’s competitive playoff basketball,” Barton added. “Some things are going to happen. If we are all out there just being friendly, it ain’t going to look like nobody trying to win.”
It’s been a roller coaster second-round series between two competitive teams, and it seems only natural that tensions finally flared.
Damian Lillard hit six 3-pointers and scored 32 points, and CJ McCollum added 30 points for the Trail Blazers. Rodney Hood provided a difference-making 25 points to keep Portland’s season alive.
“We don’t quit,” Portland’s Enes Kanter said. “I mean that’s one thing, we don’t quit. I mean we lost Game 5 by, what,  points? We know we are capable of winning there, we can beat that team.”
The Blazers won Game 2 in Denver 97-90. But the Nuggets will be playing a second consecutive Game 7 in this postseason at home, where they were a league-best 34-7 in the regular season. The Nuggets, though, know they cannot rely simply on the fact that they prevailed in Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs at home, 90-86.
“It’s weird, everyone keeps talking about experience,” Denver guard Jamal Murray said of many of the young Nuggets playing in their first postseason. “I just want to say that we’ve been here before. We’ll go back home, regroup like we did for San Antonio, come back with energy and just be ready to play.”
Denver coach Michael Malone said he is hoping both teams will be at full strength, with nothing further coming out of the Game 6 skirmish.
“I know for us — I didn’t see their bench — but our bench never came close to coming on the floor,” Malone said. “The referees and coaches from both teams did a great job of breaking it up.
“I didn’t see anything that would warrant any further techs, suspensions, whatever. Hopefully, both teams are at full strength for Game 7, which is what the fans deserve.”