The Denver Nuggets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 113-112 to extend their winning streak to five rows. In a contested match to the very end, Denver from many places, including Gary Harris, had posts that made his triumphal march with 27 points and a 3-point clutch. Paul Millsap added 22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, while Nikola Jokic had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists.
Both Portland and Denver performed the opening of this game extremely efficiently. Juancho Hernangomez delivered the Nuggets with seven early points on two three-packs and a free-throw while CJ McCollum attacked Jamal Murray all the way to play easily. Paul Millsap initially defended Jusuf Nurkic, but the Bosnian center also failed to score efficiently. It was encouraging to get Gary Harris back, and his presence was felt early, as if he were quickly removing baskets.
However, when the blazers slowed down aggressively, the nuggets remained in flames. Harris hit two three-pointers, Millsap worked in midfield and post, and Denver's defense became more frequent. The blazers did not necessarily play defensively bad either, but the nuggets simply stopped them at that end. Denver scored 38 points in the quarter and led with 1
The #Nuggets threw out a random 168 offensive rating in the first trimester. Lordy.
– Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn) December 1, 2018
Both teams shot again in the second quarter, but Denver could not be cooled. Monte Morris efficiently scored on Floaters, Mason Plumlee took the break and hit Malik Beasley off the corner for a nice three-pointer. No team could really stop. Denver struggled to stop Meyers Leonard on the track, and Plumlee collected three fouls, which caused concern over the blazers entering the bonus early. At this point, the Portland offensive started, and the blazers brought Denver's lead to only eight.
At that time, Jokic began to take power. In defense, he had sequences like these that reflected Blazers guards, including Damian Lillard for stretching and avoiding glances.
And of course there was the offense. 6/6 from the field in the first half for 13 points with four assists. Jamal Murray was an important catalyst here because while Murray's shot did not fall, he collected six assistants in the first half. This helped Denver extend the lead to 68-53 ahead of half.
At the beginning of the third quarter, Denver's slowdown slowed. The tide was still strong, but Portland narrowed and Denver just missed the shots they had made in the first half. At the other end, Jokic helped consistently by Al-Farouq Aminu, who paid Denver several times. In addition, Murray had difficulty staying ahead of McCollum. Nonetheless, Denver stayed in the lead, and their bench held the lead with only six points at 88-82 in three quarters, completed by a Trey Lyles buzzer knocker from below.
Denver opened the fourth quarter somewhat offensively with a problem, but a strong defense and a superb Plumlee block helped the defense make an attack. The bank gave up some easier points than usual, and making too many individual disputes in the attack resulted in some bad envelopes and punches. Portland reduced Denver's lead in this section to just one.
When the Denver Starters returned, Jokic came in and directed the traffic on both ends, which helped to calm the Denver attacks. Harris made the DHO game well, Monte Morris played in the crunch time and beat three, and Millsap went on to work. Even so, the blazers fought incredibly hard to make this game a match, and McCollum's shot was great in this game. A few hard calls hurt Denver, but at least they were reasonable. Murray scored two free throws with just under a minute left, and McCollum responded with a driving layup. After a kicked ball hit Jokic Harris in the corner and took three. A McCollum layup took place, and a long repetition happened that Denver was twisted in the back room for some time. Murray turned him over, once overturned, once for real. One at 5.7 left and McCullum fired an open jumper with brick wall, and the game was over.
What the Stiffs said:
How will Nikola Jokic defend in space tonight? ] Watch the video of Harrison Wind from BSN Denver above. Jokic was great in the first half and at least passable in the second. On several occasions, he switched to Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Nik Stauskas and other perimeter threats and mirrored these guys and can be asked from any center. He allowed Al-Farouq Aminu to free himself a few times, but overall the defense defense was solid tonight. Portland scored only 6/22 behind the three-point line, and Jokic was a big reason for that.
Will Gary Harris return?
He was there and had a good idea. Sometimes he was caught shooting a bit, but Denver needed his production to match Lillard and McCollum. Harris had 27 points in 21 strokes tonight and hit the biggest of the game. His DHO game with Nikola Jokic was fun, and Denver created a series of open shots with this set.
Can the bank save the day again?
The majority of Denver's reserves was in the negative plus negative department tonight, mainly due to a less than outstanding third and fourth quarter. Plumlee got into an early, bad trouble, Lyles fought Meyers Leonard and Aminu, and only Morris seemed to be playing consistently well.
Another thing that happened: Craig Sager Night
Tonight was a great night for the NBA. Craig Sager died last year after his fight against cancer and as such a visible icon in the NBA he touched the lives of many people during his time on the NBA circuit. His iconic fashion sense was celebrated by the NBA tonight as NBA coaches and teams were dressed in some of the most eye-catching outfits I've ever seen.
That's great, and shows this basketball can be more than just a source of entertainment. The game is constantly uniting people, and the legacies left behind by Craig Sager have become an awareness and money for cancer research. Good for the NBA to pay tribute to a legend.