The Denver Nuggets leveled the series with a decisive 128-109 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2. The Nuggets’ offense was humming from the opening tip and their lead was only put to the test during a supernova run from Damian Lillard in the second quarter. Fueled by his three-point shooting, Lillard recorded 42 points in Monday’s loss. For the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic produced 38 points on 20 attempts from the field.
Outside of the Nuggets and Blazers, the officials for Game 2 turned in a noteworthy performance. In a seemingly endless third quarter, the referees dictated the pace of the contest by interrupting the action at regular intervals.
If you haven’t already, you can check out our quarter-by-quarter recap by clicking here. Now let’s return to the misery.
Table For One
Lillard was the only reliable option for the Blazers in Game 1. Portland struggled with turnovers, rebounding, defense and shot selection throughout the night. Lillard was the only Blazers player that managed to fight through those deficiencies. In the second quarter, Lillard absolutely erupted with a three-point barrage that nearly pulled the Blazers back into a contest that they had no business being in. In the first half, Lillard went 8-of-11 from distance for 32 points.
In the second half, Lillard’s outside shooting cooled. Tired legs from an extended first-half stint and a shift in defensive approach from the Nuggets halted Lillard’s progress. Instead of doubling Lillard with multiple guards, Denver placed Aaron Gordon across from him. Gordon’s length and positioning did the trick.
In the end, Lillard logged 42 minutes and recorded 42 points in a contest where the Blazers were firmly sitting behind a double-digit deficit for extended stretches.
The Little Things
The Blazers, who have struggled with defense throughout the year, added to their misery by failing to control the action in the margins. Portland wasted possessions with silly fouls (more on that later) and turnovers. The Nuggets’ pressure was rewarded throughout the night. Whenever the Blazers started to piece together any form of momentum in the second half, a wasted possession would materialize. The Blazers committed six turnovers in Game 1. On Monday, they coughed up the ball 21 times.
Along with careless possessions, the Blazers once again allowed the Nuggets to reach a double-digit total in offensive rebounds. In my best Dean Wormer voice: poor rebounding with little attention to maintaining possession is no way to go through the playoffs.
I Can Still Hear The Whistles
Hopefully you didn’t stop the game to adjust your television set or your router. The officials generated that whistling sound and the constant stoppages. I want to be clear, I do not like to complain about referees. But there is a threshold that can be crossed. The third quarter of tonight’s game was completely unwatchable, for both fanbases. Neither team could find a rhythm as the officials debuted their new album that features an endless series of all-whistle solos.
At the end of three quarters, there were 42 fouls called. The Nuggets were robbed of a runaway victory and a full evening at home. On the opposite side, the Blazers found out it is nearly impossible to generate momentum when there is a stoppage every 30 seconds.
- Carmelo Anthony ditched his catch-and-shoot approach for Game 2. Instead of getting into his attempts early, he waited until a defender got close and the offense stopped around him. Bold approach. He finished with a single field goal and five points in 21 minutes.
- I appreciate Norman Powell trying to give the Blazers a discount this summer, but this is not what I had in mind. The former Raptors guard has failed to take advantage of the space that the Nuggets have given him through two games. Powell has connected on just one of his seven three-point attempts in the series. On the plus side, he did have success getting to the rim in the second half.
- Robert Covington is a master of poking the ball free on defense. That said, it is tough to point to another thing that was impressive during his 37-minute performance in Game 2. In a game where the Blazers endured rebounding issues, Covington’s single board in the box score is a tough look.
- Jusuf Nurkic has the impossible task of guarding Jokic in this series, but that shouldn’t be a catch-all excuse for sloppy play. Even before the whistles arrived, Nurkic allowed several Nuggets to blow by him in the paint. In the second half, his night was cut short after he picked up his sixth foul in the early moments of the fourth quarter.
The Blazers and Nuggets return to action on Thursday.