Denver Nuggets hit Portland Trail Blazers 113-112 to extend their winning distance to five straight. In a controversial match all…
Denver Nuggets hit Portland Trail Blazers 113-112 to extend their winning distance to five straight. In a controversial match all the way to the end, Denver had contributions from many places, including Gary Harris, who made his triumphant return with 27 points and a pair of pointers. Paul Millsap scored 22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, while Nikola Jokic had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists.
Both Portland and Denver drove extremely effective crimes to open this game. Juancho Hernangomez paced Nuggets with seven early points on two catch-and-shoot three and one free throw while CJ McCollum consistently attacked Jamal Murray for simple buckets. Paul Millsap started defending Jusuf Nurkic, but it did not stop the Bosnian Center from scoring effectively either. It was encouraging to get Gary Harris back, and his presence felt early to cut to the rim for fast baskets.
When Blazers slowed offensive, however, the nuns were angry. Harris struck two three pointers, Millsap worked his play in the midst and post area, and Denver defense clamped down more often. The Blazers did not necessarily play defensively either, but Nuggets simply executed them at the end. Denver scored 38 points in the quarter and led by 1
Both teams came out again in the second quarter, but Denver could not be cooled. Monte Morris performed effectively on floaters, Mason Plumlee ran the break and beat Malik Beasley for a nice pointer from the corner, and no team could really stop. Denver fought to stop Meyers Leonard during this stretch and Plumlee accumulated three mistakes, and it became anxious to Blazers to get into the bonus early. By this time, the Portland offensive and Blazers went Denver’s lead to only eight.
That’s when Jokic began to take over. In defense, he had sequences like this, which reflected Blazer’s guards, including Damian Lillard for stretches and prevention of light appearance.
And of course it was the crime. 6/6 from the field in the first half for 13 points to go with four assistants. Jamal Murray was a big catalyst here, because when Murray did not shoot he cumulated six first half help. This helped Denver extend his lead by half to 68-53.
To begin the third quarter, the crash for Denver slowed down. The flow was still quite strong, but Portland was tightened up, and Denver simply missed some of the shots they had hit in the first half. At the other end, Jokic consistently helped Al-Farouq Aminu, who made Denver pay several times. In addition, Murray fought for stopping in front of McCollum. However, Denver continued, and the bench retained the lead with only six points to save 88-82 by three quarters, shrunk by a Trey Lyles buzzer beater from the depths.
Denver opened fourth quarter with a little offensive but strong defense and an excellent Plumlee block helped the defense to be a crime. The bench gave up a few easier points than usual, and did too much individually on offensive led to some bad turnover and shots. Portland lowered the Denver leadership to just one under this stretch.
When Denver’s starters returned, Jokic came in and managed traffic at both ends, which helped calm Denver’s crimes very much. Harris ran the DHO game nicely, Monte Morris played in crunch time and hit a pair of three, and Millsap continued to go to work. But Blazers struggled extremely hard to make this a game, and McCollum’s shotgun was great in this. Some tough conversations hurt Denver, but at least they were reasonable. With the game bound and under one minute, Murray took two free throws, and McCollum responded with a driving layup. After a kicked ball, Jokic Harris met at the corner of a CLUTCH three. A McCollum layup occurred, and a long replay occurred Denver beyond a time in the backcourt, Murray turned it over once lost, once for real. Down one with 5.7 left, McCollum shot an open bracket as bricked, and the game was over.
How will Nikola Jokic defend in space tonight?
] Watch the video from Harrison Wind of BSN Denver above. Jokic was great in the first half and at least passable in others. On several occasions, he switched to Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Nik Stauska and other perimeter battles, which reflected those guys as well as being asked from any center. He made it possible for Al-Farouq Aminu to be available a few times, but overall, the perimeter defense was fixed tonight. Portland just shot 6/22 behind the three-point line, and the Jokic coverage area was a major reason.
Will Gary Harris be back?
He and he had a good view for sure. Sometimes he was caught, but Denver needed his production to match Lillard and McCollum. Harris had 27 points tonight on 21 shots and hit the biggest part of the game. His DHO game with Nikola Jokic was fun to see, and Denver created a number of open shots with this set.
Can the bench save the day again?
The majority of Denver’s reserves were negative in the plus-minus department tonight, mainly due to a less than stellar third and fourth quarter stint. Plumlee came into trouble early, Lyles struggled to match Meyers Leonard and Aminu, and only Morris seemed to play well consistently.
Tonight was a good night around the NBA. Craig Sager went away last year after his fight against cancer, and as such a visible icon around the NBA, he stirred many people’s lives during his time on the NBA circuit. His iconic fashion sense was celebrated by NBA tonight, as NBA coaches and broadcast teams dressed on some of the fastest courting sites I’ve ever seen.
This is amazing, and it shows that basketball can do more than just be a source of entertainment. The game consistently joins people, and the legacy Craig Sager left behind has turned into a cancer awareness and fund. Good at the NBA to honor a legend.