Jusuf Nurkic frustrated with Nuggets-Blazers refs after fouling out consecutive games: “I can’t agree on all of those”

The Nuggets entered their first-round playoff series determined to irritate Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic and force him into foul trouble.

So far, it’s working.

Nurkic, having fouled out in consecutive games, vented his frustration Thursday night after the Nuggets’ dramatic 120-115 road victory in Game 3.

“It’s my fault to get in foul trouble, but at the same time, I’m looking at the fouls and I can’t agree on all of those,” Nurkic said. “I really can’t.”

One call in particular got under his skin.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Nurkic re-entered the game and was immediately charged with holding against Nikola Jokic. To describe it as soft is an understatement. Nurkic bodied up Jokic as he established position near the arc with slight hand checking. Official Zach Zarba blew the whistle anyway.

“They said I was holding him, but that was not true,” Nurkic said. “If you go looking back in slow-mo, my hand was never grabbing anybody. He actually locked my arm and grabbed my wrist.”

A universal truth in complaining about officials? Bad calls end up going both ways. Any number of fouls could be re-examined after 42 combined calls at the Moda Center on Thursday night.

The Nuggets are happy to let Portland do the complaining.

“To be honest, that’s their problem,” said Jokic, when asked about Nurkic fouling out. “We have a lot of stuff we can be better (at) as the Denver Nuggets.”

Nurkic did not explain away what happened on his sixth foul. With 5:17 left to play in Game 3, and the Nuggets leading 94-92, he got out of position defending Aaron Gordon in the paint. Nurkic then bumped Gordon on a layup try and chopped at his arms.

An easy call to make.

“The last one, that he fouled out on, was absolutely a foul,” said Blazers teammate Damian Lillard. “But I can remember a couple where I’m like: ‘Man, those are plays that happen all the time.’ This is one of our best players and we need him on the floor. You would expect the (officials’) judgment to be like: ‘Alright, I’m not going to call that, because it happens all the time.’”

The Blazers turned to Rondae Hollis Jefferson, and not Enes Kanter, over the final minutes and Denver took full advantage. Austin Rivers rained down 3s and Jokic leveraged mismatches in the post for a pair of buckets and two assists, including a tip-in off a missed free throw in the final seconds, as the Nuggets held on to take a 2-1 series lead entering Game 4 on Saturday afternoon in Portland.

Nurkic told reporters that he is ultimately responsible for staying out of foul trouble. Yet it’s becoming clear that the Nuggets, and playoff officiating, might be getting into his head.

“Obviously, frustrated as everybody,” Nurkic said.

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