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Recap: Blazers Lose Close One To Nuggets, 116-113

Nikola Jokic outplayed Jusuf Nurkic as the Nuggets held off the Blazers Sunday night.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers showed up and competed but fell just short of pulling off the upset against the Denver Nuggets, falling 116-113 on the road in a thrilling back-and-forth contest. Clutch buckets from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the final minute gave the Blazers a fighting chance to steal what would have been a meaningful victory against the current Western Conference leader, but a key offensive rebound by Jamal Murray in the waning seconds allowed Denver to survive. Lillard’s desperation three-point heave as time expired never had a chance.

Despite the outcome, this was actually an entertaining basketball game all around and was very close throughout. The Nuggets only momentarily managed to build a double-digit lead late in the third quarter before Portland quickly closed the gap and otherwise remained locked within just one or two possessions the whole evening.

Box Score

Random thoughts and takeaways:

Balkan Brothers. The matchup of once teammates, now best frenemies Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic has been the marquee attraction between these two teams since the trade that separated them back in 2017 and tonight was no different. Unfortunately for the Blazers, it was Jokic getting the best of the head-to-head, erupting for a 40-point near triple-double while Nurkic fought through foul trouble to finish with a still respectable, yet not up to his recent standard 12 points, 8 boards and 4 assists. Denver established the Serbian 7-footer in its offense early and often, putting pressure on Nurkic, who perhaps had to play more conservatively after picking up his first foul on a silly off-ball hack just over a minute into the game. After famously wishing his former squad “a happy summer” nearly two years ago, Nurk and the Blazers have won only one game against the Nuggets and have now come out losers of the last five.

Mile High Curse? Despite Denver being the team playing the second of a back-to-back, Portland looked to be the less energetic of the two, gasping for air down the stretch and committing some careless and costly fouls which could have been due to fatigue. Who knows if altitude truly is to blame, and it’s not an excuse, but if the Blazers were hoping to run a tired opponent out of its own gym, they ended up getting the tables turned on them instead.

Up Next

The Blazers will now hop on a flight to Sacramento to take on the Kings in the second half of a back-to-back tomorrow night.