Remember last year’s late-March showdown in Portland that pitted Jusuf Nurkic against his former Denver Nuggets teammates less than two months after the disgruntled center was shipped to the greater Northwest? Nurkic tallied the best game of his career; a 33-point, 15-rebound, 2-block performance and Denver shot could never get their high-flying offense in gear.
Denver lost by nine points that March night and were a half-step off on offense for the entire 48 minutes. Monday night in Portland, it was déjà vu.
After a sloppy first half where Denver shot 45.5 percent from the field, shot an encouraging 53.8 percent from deep, but committed 11 turnovers over the game’s first two quarters, Portland took over.
The Trail Blazers opened up a 26-15 third-quarter advantage, as the Nuggets’ offense could never get into a rhythm. Denver shot 5-22 (22.7 percent) from the field, recorded zero assists and committed five turnovers.
Nikola Jokic finished with just six points on 2-9 shooting the day he won the Western Conference’s Player of the Week award. He registered three assists, seven rebounds but wasn’t much a factor in the 35 minutes he played.
The Nuggets found themselves down early after and 18-4 Portland run in the first half but a trio of Paul Millsap threes brought Denver back to within nine at the 4:10 mark of the second quarter. The Nuggets then found some life behind Millsap, Jamal Murray, and Will Barton, who both finished the first-half in double-figures, and a 15-4 run to close to within five at the half.
But the Trail Blazers dominated the third quarter, stunned Denver and the Nuggets could never recover. Denver’s backcourt of Jamal Murray and Will Barton, who started a second-consecutive game for Gary Harris (right shoulder soreness), combined for 30 points and Millsap led Denver, along with Murray, with 18 points.
Millsap’s five threes were a season high. Denver hasn’t won a game in Portland since 2013. The Nuggets also didn’t outscore the Trail Blazers in a single quarter tonight and handed out just one second-half assist.