The Portland Trail Blazers led the Denver Nuggets for three quarters, but the champs took over in the fourth to pull away for a 112-103 victory. Without Malcolm Brogdon and Jerami Grant, Portland took a double-digit lead in a hot-shooting first half, led by Deandre Ayton and Anfernee Simons. But in full Nuggets tradition, Nikola Jokic looked like an unstoppable freight train, picking up momentum to keep Denver close until they could overwhelm the Blazers late.
A few thoughts from tonight’s game:
- This really wasn’t a bad loss. Portland’s Youth Movement was in full display, putting the NBA Champs on their heels with lots of energy and some surprisingly hot shooting. Denver didn’t take their first lead until the final seconds of the third quarter, as they picked up the defense and Portland started to struggle at both ends against an elite team. But that’s to be expected. If you wanted a glimpse of a promising Blazers future, this was it.
- A clear Big Two. With Grant and Brogdon out, the Blazers’ offense relied on Simons and Ayton, who each flirted with a double-double. Ayton led the game with 27 points on 13-19 shooting to go with 9 rebounds, while Simons scored 26 on 8-18 from the field with 9 assists.
- A mixed bag for Scoot Henderson. The Blazers’ rookie couldn’t find the net all night, missing 13 of his 16 shots, including a few frustrating gimme’s at the rim. But he found other ways to contribute when his shot wasn’t falling. His 9 assists and 8 rebounds played an important role in the team’s early success.
- Lot of minutes for the kids. Kris Murray started and shot 4-7 for 8 points. Toumani Camara affected the game in positive ways again, with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and general peskiness. Duop Reath shot a perfect 3-3 from the field, including 2-2 from three, for 8 points. In relatively quiet nights, Jabari Walker had 7 rebounds, and Justin Minaya got game minutes against the champs.
Four days off for the Blazers, followed by Thursday’s trade deadline and a home game against the woeful Detroit Pistons.