The Denver Nuggets came to Portland for a game against division rival Trail Blazers and barely got away with a win in a contentious battle that at times felt like a playoff atmosphere. The Nuggets’ starters all scored in double digits led by Nikola Jokic, who has 25 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists and clutch performance in the diminishing minutes of the game, which allowed Denver to avoid a potentially winning shot from Norman Powell.
Denver and Portland went back and forth during the game, but the Nuggets nearly made the Blazers pull away several times. What comes to mind the most is the third and early fourth quarters. Denver was leading at half time, but checked out completely to start the third, as Portland went on an 18-2 run at one point. Somehow the lineup consisting of PJ Dozier, Shaq Harrison, Austin Rivers, JaMychal Green and Paul Millsap stopped the bleeding and kept Denver in it. The starters didn’t even come back until there was just over five minutes in the fourth quarter, just in time for Jokic to do and hold Jokic stuff for the win.
The individual performances were … interesting. Michael Porter Jr. had a perfect first quarter, shooting 8-for-8 and scoring 17 runs in what looked like a great night for him. Still, he got no shots in the second quarter and missed the remaining four shots he made in the match. In the third quarter, he was called for a blatant foul for being kicked out on a three-point attempt, a ridiculous call given the number of star players fishing for those kinds of free throws in today’s NBA, but still technically a correct call. MPJ is as good as it gets touches, but it really seemed like the Nuggets were straying from that after the first quarter, which is a real shame as it ran out of lights.
The aforementioned banking unit had both good and pretty bad moments. The first stint in the second quarter was awful and raised questions as to why Malone wouldn’t put JaVale McGee at the center when Portland is playing big with Kanter in the second unit. Still, this unit practically saved the game in the third and fourth. Dozier-Harrison-Rivers was a pretty gnarled defensive unit and it was good to see Austin making an immediate impression on Denver.
In the end, the Nuggets did just enough to keep Dame Time from taking over in the fourth. Lillard finished with 22 runs but was only 2-for-6 in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win, and when it’s past Jusuf Nurkic it’s always sweet.