DENVER • Portland coach Terry Stotts paid tribute to the team's video coordinator, Jonathan Yim, who was seriously injured in a car crash with his family last week, after the Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 97-90 to tie their Western Conference semi-finals at one game apiece.
Calling the night "bow-tie Wednesday", the third seeds held off a late rally from the second seeds, who were five points behind with 34 seconds left on the clock.
The National Basketball Association play-off series now transitions to Portland, with Game 3 today.
Guard C.J. McCollum led all scorers with 20 points and, while All-Star guard Damian Lillard had a relatively quiet night with 14 points, double-digit contributions from four other Blazers helped them get over the line.
Afterwards, Stotts, who wore a bow tie on the sidelines, revealed it was to show solidarity with Yim and claimed that "bow ties are undefeated this year".
He also hailed how his players were "a lot better offensively" than in Game 1, saying: "I really liked our approach in the first half, particularly the first quarter. We did a better job on the ball. I liked the tone we set for most of the game."
However, he also admitted the Blazers had been too lax in guarding All-Star centre Nikola Jovic, who paced Denver with 16 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, especially in the final quarter. He said his team "were very fortunate that we weren't hurt as badly as we could have been".
His opposite number was equally unhappy after contrasting halves, with the Nuggets initially struggling to match Portland's physical approach, before raising their game after the interval.
Coach Michael Malone added: "In that first half, they were the aggressor... I'm extremely proud of the way my players came back in the second half.
"But we've got to do it for 48 minutes and that was the most disappointing thing about tonight."