Nuggets Blazers Game 5
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Nuggets Nikola Jokic defends Blazer Enes Kanter during game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. The Nuggets defeated the Blazers 124-98. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

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Enes Kanter will find himself tested in new ways in Game 7 on Sunday that have little to do with basketball.

The Portland center and devout Muslim has observed the traditional sunup through sundown fasting of Ramadan since it began on May 6. For late games, that has meant he held off on eating or drinking throughout the day before gorging at halftime. He said he ate six peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during halftime of Game 5 in Denver.

He averaged 6.5 points and 11 rebounds in Games 5 and 6, the two played since he began fasting. He averaged 16 points and 10.3 rebounds in the first four games of the series.

But Golden State’s defeat of Houston on Friday bumped the Nuggets from another late slot up to a 1:30 p.m. start time. Kanter, if he continues to follow the traditions set forth by the holiday, will not be able to eat or drink during the game on Sunday. He will also likely withhold injections into his injured shoulder, which he has taken at halftime of the past two games.

In a deadlocked series, a less-than-100-percent Kanter could make a big difference.

Kanter has welcomed the challenges presented by his faithful observance of this Islamic tradition and said he reached out to Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon for guidance.

“It is also the NBA playoffs. Both require my absolute focus in a way that I have never experienced before,” Kanter wrote in the Washington Post.

“I would like to continue to use my platform to advocate on behalf of people in Turkey who can’t speak out, including at the Human Rights Foundation’s Oslo Freedom Forum. More than anything, I want to be an example for children everywhere, showing them that you can thrive when challenged — fasting for Ramadan, for instance, but also going all out in the NBA playoffs.”

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