The Trail Blazers completed their 2020-21 regular season with a 42-30 record thanks to a 132-116 victory over the Nuggets. The Blazers jumped out to an early lead and cruised through four quarters with a comfortable margin in hand throughout each frame. Portland’s high-powered trio of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Norman Powell combined for 66 points. In the paint, Jusuf Nurkic finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
If you haven’t already, you can check out our quarter-by-quarter breakdown by clicking here.
Off and Running
The Blazers built a double-digit lead in the first three minutes with an 11-0 run and never looked back after that. The Nuggets willingly conceded open looks from beyond the arc and played without urgency in transition. The Blazers accepted the offer and absolutely lit up the net on their three-point attempts. At halftime, the Blazers posted a 10-of-21 shooting mark from distance.
Portland’s dominance expanded well beyond solid outside shooting, though. The Blazers thwarted any attempt the Nuggets made to push the pace, they dominated the rebounding battle and did a better job of earning trips to the free throw line.
Add in the Nuggets’ unwillingness to assist the Lakers’ journey out of the play-in field and you have a perfect recipe for a wire-to-wire win for the Blazers.
Nurkic was in the zone from the opening tip and produced a first half double-double for the first time this season. I guess it is better late than never. Nurkic fed off Lillard’s pass-happy first half and cooked the Nuggets in two-man actions. From pick and rolls to give-and-go sets, the Bosnian Beast routinely found an open invitation to get to the rim. Nurkic’s night also featured a gorgeous three-pointer that was in perfect rhythm.
In just 20 minutes of action, Nurkic finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Removing All Doubt
The Blazers enjoyed a comfortable 17-point lead at halftime, but the Nuggets appeared to briefly find their rhythm in the early portion of the third quarter. Lillard, who attempted just five field goals in the first half, made it a point to squash any potential momentum shift. Following a quick timeout, Lillard erupted for 15 points in the frame. Buoyed by that aggressive push, the Blazers’ lead ballooned to another comfortable margin.
Lillard finished the night with 22 points and 10 assists.
The Nuggets’ lack of urgency makes it a complete fool’s errand to build a scouting report from this contest for the series ahead. One thing is clear: Nurkic is in rhythm and appears ready for a spicy matchup with the presumptive NBA MVP. The Jokic-Nurkic matchup, for obvious reasons, is the glitzy headliner on the postseason marquee.
The Blazers will meet the Nuggets in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.