PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts called it “Nurkic Fever” before the game, and the love for Jusuf Nurkic had only grown by the end of the night.
The 7-foot center had a career-high 28 points and 20 rebounds, and Portland beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-108 in overtime on Thursday.
Nurkic, who was acquired last month in a trade with Denver, also had eight assists and six blocks in Portland’s season-high fourth straight win.
The “Bosnian Beast” has quickly become a fan favorite for the Trail Blazers, and Stotts was asked before the game if he was surprised.
“It’s easy to do,” the coach said. “Nurkic fever? Why not?”
On the court afterward, Nurkic smiled when he was told about the coach’s comments. The crowd roared.
“I love being here,” he said. “I appreciate what the city is doing for me. I just want to give them back something.”
Damian Lillard added 24 points for Portland, but did not make a 3-pointer, snapping a streak of 42 games with at least one 3.
Philadelphia rookie Dario Saric had a season-best 28 points, while Robert Covington scored 24 in the 76ers’ sixth loss in seven games.
Covington’s layup at the buzzer in regulation tied at 97. Nurkic’s tip-in gave the Blazers a 102-99 lead, but Covington made a 3-pointer to tie it again at 102.
Lillard’s free throws gave Portland a 106-104 lead with under two minutes left in the extra period. His layup extended the lead to four.
Allen Crabbe’s floater with 20.9 seconds left helped seal the victory for the Blazers.
“That’s as dominant a performance as we have played against this year from an interior player,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said about Nurkic. “Twenty rebounds and 28 points. That’s a dominant effort.”
Nurkic has been a spark for Portland, one of a number of teams jockeying for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. It began the day in ninth in the standings, just below the Denver Nuggets.
“Different teams are at different stages,” Stotts said about the urgency at this time of the season. “Obviously with us, with 20 games to go, every win and every loss is magnified.”
Philadelphia is near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and well out of the playoff picture.
The Sixers got center Jahlil Okafor back after he missed two games because of right knee soreness. Philadelphia has been so short-handed it received a hardship exception to sign Shawn Long to a 10-day contract earlier this week.
Portland led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter and took a 57-52 lead into the half, but the focus was on Nurkic, who had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists before the break.
Philadelphia grabbed a 95-94 lead on Saric’s free throws with 55.9 to go. Nurkic made the second of two free throws to tie it again, and Covington fouled CJ McCollum, who made his foul shots to give Portland a 97-95 lead.
Nurkic was asked if he was on top of the world following the performance. He was the first Blazer with 20 or more points and rebounds in a game since LaMarcus Aldridge in January 2014.
“Nah, I’m gonna stay on the ground, because I know what I’m capable of,” he said. “I don’t like to talk about myself, I’m gonna show it on the court.”
Portland was coming off a 126-121 victory at Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
76ers: Brown praised former 76er Elton Brand, who now serves as player development consultant for the team. Brown said Brand has “an incredible sense of perspective, a calm mind.”
Trail Blazers: The Sixers beat the Blazers 93-92 earlier this year at the Wells Fargo Center. Covington hit a 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds left for the win.
Brown was asked why Covington fouled McCollum near the end of regulation with the game tied.
“He thought Nurkic made both free throws. Stuff like that happens. I think what we should all finally remember is how good an effort he made to get that putback at the end of the game and what a game he played,” Brown said. “It was a mistake and we move on.”
76ers: Head to Los Angeles to face the Clippers for the second of their four-game road trip.
Trail Blazers: Host the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)