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Blazers Fall to Nuggets in Nail-Biter (the other kind of nails)

With Portland fielding half a lineup, it wasn’t pretty.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers walked into Ball Arena to play the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night hoping just hoping to put in a good showing. They, uh...didn’t. In an outing best described as, “1st-Level D&D Characters Get Teleported to the Abyss”, Portland fell to Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets 140-108.

If you missed the action, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap (or as much as we could do without losing our sense of humor) here. Once you’ve got that down...

...well, let’s be honest. There’s not much analysis to this game. The Blazers played extremely well when their “starters”—who did not include Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, or Anfernee Simons—had fresh legs and hope. Portland held even with the Nuggets for approximately ten minutes. But then they had to sub in the “bench”, heavy on the quotes. Let’s not name names...it was a team loss. But if you put on a welder’s mask and glance at the bottom rungs of Portland’s roster, you can get a pretty good idea why they didn’t succeed when put on the floor en masse.

Let’s talk about some positives. First of all, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Dennis Smith Jr. Portland’s third-string point guard started, once again showing that he is not intimidated by any situation. He attacked the rim hard and creatively. He also racked up 8 assists, no small feat on a night when his teammates were hitting approximately zero three-pointers.

Nassir Little and Ben McLemore also played unafraid, enthusiastic, and on both ends...well, as much as anybody did on a night when Denver shot 63.4% from the field and 51,2% from the arc. They provided scoring and hustle, balancing out the parts of Portland’s attack that were working,

But oh boy, did the Blazers turn it over. It wasn’t just quantity (15 for the game), but quality of the miscues. Forget mistiming the backdoor cuts; they couldn’t dribble. Also, they had trouble rebounding the instant Jusuf Nurkic left the floor. And points in the paint? Fuggetaboutit. Denver won that battle 58-46. When it mattered, it wasn’t nearly that close.

All the ways the Blazers could make up the disparity faded into mist. Superstar performance? None were available. Excellent three-point shooting? They shot 30.8% from distance. Help from the refs? 60.7% on free throws.

And that, dear friends, is all you need to know about this outing. The Blazers will reset, hope to get a couple players back, and square off against the Washington Wizards at 4:00, Pacific on Saturday.