With Damian Lillard still injured, and red-hot former Blazer Will Barton in town, nobody was sure what to expect. But the Blazers took care of business at Moda, securing a shaky yet solid victory over the scrappy Denver Nuggets, who attempted an unsuccessful 16 point fourth-quarter comeback.
The Blazers were led by CJ McCollum's 29 points and 4 assists. The Blazers had support spread out across the team, especially Allen Crabbe (20 points, 5 rebounds), Meyers Leonard (11 points, 5 rebounds), Moe Harkless (12 points, 5 rebounds) and Al-Farouq Aminu (14 points, 9 rebounds). And Barton has a monster night returning to his old home, finishing with 31 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Behind McCollum's 11 first quarter points, the Blazers held their own against the energetic Nuggets in the first quarter. In the second quarter, the teams did what they usually do: Toss haymakers at each other, leading to a Blazer run, followed by a Nuggets run, then repeat. Portland pulled ahead as the half reached the end, slowly taking a double digit lead before settling for a seven point advantage.
Halftime Score: Portland 58, Denver 51
The Blazers pressed the advantage to open the second half, quickly taking a 12 point lead. But Denver responded, as Barton helped his team pull within a few possessions. Then, much like the first half, Portland regained control. Meyers Leonard hit a few more three pointers, and Denver was staring at a double-digit deficit again. Portland spent much of the second half attempting to keep Denver at arm's reach, reaching a 16 point lead early in the fourth thanks to a Moe Harkless shot. Denver clawed back to single digits again, as Barton and Jameer Nelson made it a 7 point game. Barton continued his tear, helping cut the lead to as little as 5. But Crabbe swished a three, and McCollum followed it up with a jumper, and Portland was ahead by 8 points with 45 seconds left. Denver had no other challenges, and the Blazers walked away with their third win in a row.
The Blazers head to the airport for a flight to Salt Lake City, where they play Thursday night against the Utah Jazz. Stay tuned tonight, with more coverage of this game from Dave Deckard.