The Portland Trail Blazers saw their losing streak hit three games on Thursday night, falling 111-106 to the host Denver Nuggets. The Blazers overcame an early double-digit deficit to force a close game in the second half, but couldn’t overcome late heroics from Jamal Murray and a dominant performance from Nikola Jokic, who finished the night with 41 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Damian Lillard led Portland with 25 points and 13 assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Blazer offense sputtered down the stretch and allowed the Nuggets to take control of the game late behind their stars.
Here are a few key takeaways from tonight’s action:
Murray Clutch Late
Jamal Murray had an abysmal night heading into the game’s final frame. He entered the fourth just 1-9 from the field, but erupted for 19 in the quarter to help put the Nuggets ahead for good. Despite playing through an apparent shoulder injury, Murray shot 6-9 from the field in the fourth, while icing the game at the free-throw line to further cement his status as one of the game’s best closers. Murray also had an impressive 8-1 assist-turnover ratio. No other Nugget committed a turnover in the game.
No Answer For Joker
While Murray stole the show late, it was Nikola Jokic who gave the Blazer defense fits all night. Jokic took advantage of a favorable matchup against Enes Kanter, doing much of his damage in the midrange, though he did connect on a trio of threes. He finished 17-32 shooting, but most of his misses were still solid looks. Minus a brief cold stretch in the third quarter, he was locked-in the entire night.
Jones Comes Alive
Perhaps the biggest positive aspect of this game for the Blazers was the continued offensive output from Derrick Jones Jr., who went for a season-high 18 points on 7-9 shooting, including 2-3 from distance. He has now scored in double-figures in four of the last five games, and is playing with confidence on both ends of the floor. Despite the increased scoring load, he still brought the energy on defense, blocking three shots.
Melo Fuels Run
After a rocky start, Portland’s offense responded in the second quarter, outscoring Denver 32-23 in the frame to tie things up at halftime. Carmelo Anthony was instrumental to this run, scoring 16 in the frame and putting the team on his back with Lillard on the bench, doing most of his damage in isolation plays. Unfortunately for the Blazers, Melo’s hot touch didn’t carry into the second half, where the team struggled mightily to get things going offensively, particularly down the stretch.
GTJ Makes History
Gary Trent Jr. shook off a terrible shooting performance against the Phoenix Suns on Monday to set a franchise record on Tuesday. He connected on four three-pointers, marking the 12th consecutive game of making at least three shots from beyond the arc. No other Blazer, including Lillard, has accomplished such a feat. Trent finished the night with 18 points on 7-16 shooting, going 4-11 from downtown.
The Blazers head to Southern California for a date with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, scheduled for 7 p.m. PT on ESPN.