PORTLAND, Ore. — The Denver Nuggets needed somebody to step up.
Austin Rivers answered the call.
Rivers was the catalyst for Denver in Game 3 on Thursday night, and the result was the Nuggets taking a 2-1 series lead over the Portland Trailblazers.
Rivers went off for 21 points -- 16 of them delivered in the fourth quarter. It was the second-most by any Nuggets player behind only MVP candidate Nikola Jokic.
His scoring spree entailed hitting five 3-pointers, many of them in clutch time as Denver fended off Portland's comeback for a pivotal victory.
It's been quite the journey for Rivers, who was signed to only a 10-day contract by Denver in April.
"Think about this: The guy was sitting at home for 2 1/2 months waiting for his phone to ring, and it wasn't ringing," head coach Michael Malone said.
It turns out the silence had nothing to do with his hoops skills.
"A lot of teams liked me, but they didn't know what type of character I was and how I would be in the locker room," Rivers said. "My basketball abilities were never questioned, it was who I was as a person, which is actually even worse.
"I swear some of these nights you can feel so low, and then this game can make you feel so good. It's a beautiful game."
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