NBA: Blazers beat Nuggets for upper hand in playoff race

C.J. McCollum scored 39 points and Jusuf Nurkic scored a career-high 33 as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 112-113 on Tuesday in a battle of teams scrambling for a playoff spot.

Damian Lillard added 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who moved one game ahead of the Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Portland also claimed the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of winning three of the teams' four regular-season games.

Nurkic, acquired in a trade with Denver on February 13, made 12 of his 15 shots form the field and nine of 11 free throw attempts. He also pulled down 16 rebounds in a dominant performance against his former team.

He had surpassed his previous career-high of 20 points before the end of the third quarter, his 21 first-half points helping the Blazers take a 66-64 lead into halftime.

They extended the lead to 83-76 midway through the third and were up 95-85 going into the final period.

Jameer Nelson scored 23 points for the Nuggets, who got 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from Nikola Jokic.

Denver pulled within 109-103 with 5:05 to play, but Portland reserve forward Al-Farouq Aminu responded with five straight points and the Nuggets couldn't get the gap below seven points from there.