CJ McCollum stepped up in a big way on Sunday afternoon to help the Portland Trail Blazers take down the Denver Nuggets on the road in Game 7 of their second-round series. The veteran guard finished with 37 points and nine rebounds in a stunning performance that pushed the Blazers into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2000.
His consistent ability to get buckets was crucial for the Blazers — even more so with Damian Lillard struggling — and that included a clutch step-back jumper with 12 seconds left to give them a three-point cushion. But his best play may have come on the defensive end.
With under five minutes to play, the Blazers were clinging to a four-point lead when Nikola Jokic secured a rebound and tossed a perfect outlet pass to Jamal Murray. It seemed like the young guard would have an easy two points, but McCollum had other ideas. He raced back and swatted Murray’s layup attempt off the backboard.
It was an incredible play by McCollum, and an important one as well to keep the Blazers’ lead at four points — in a neat coincidence, they went on to win by the same margin.
After the game, McCollum was asked about the key play and joked that he was channeling “my boy [LeBron James] from the 330.” Both McCollum and LeBron are from Akron, Ohio, and though he was in part joking, there was some merit to his comments. The stakes weren’t quite as high, nor was his play quite as impressive, but it was absolutely reminiscent of LeBron’s incredible block on Andre Iguodala in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
“The King” agreed, giving McCollum a shoutout after the game on Twitter and declaring that his favorite play was the chasedown block.
If having a huge performance in a Game 7 win on the road wasn’t enough, getting co-signed by the best player in the league is a perfect way to complete McCollum’s brilliant Sunday.