Jokic, Chandler carry Nuggets past Trail Blazers
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Denver Nuggets ended one streak and the Portland Trail Blazers continued another Friday night.
The Nuggets ended a nine-game losing streak at Moda Center with a 102-85 victory over the Trail Blazers, who have lost six in a row at home.
Nikola Jokic scored 27 points and Wilson Chandler added a season-high 21 points and 11 rebounds for Denver (17-15), which hadn’t won in Portland since February 2013.
Jokic was 12 of 21 from the field, had nine rebounds and six assists. Gary Harris chipped in 17 points as the Nuggets ended a two-game losing streak.
“It’s a hell of a win,” Denver coach Mike Malone said. “I asked (the Denver players) before the game, ‘What happened on Feb. 27, 2013?’ Everybody looked around like, ‘I have no idea.’ I said, ‘That’s the last time we won in this building.’”
Jokic had just celebrated his 18th birthday in his native Serbia.
“I was back home, driving horses, so I don’t remember that period,” he quipped. “But I’m very happy to end that losing streak.”
CJ McCollum scored 15 points and Shabazz Napier had 14 for the Trail Blazers (16-16), who were playing without Damian Lillard. Portland’s team captain and leading scorer missed a game for the first time this season with a strained right hamstring.
“With Lillard out, they’re not their full team,” Malone said. “But we played a complete game at both ends of the floor.”
The Blazers trailed by double digits from the late second quarter on.
“Just an overall bad game for us,” said Portland center Jusuf Nurkic, who had only 10 points and one rebound in 24 minutes. “We didn’t do the job we’re supposed to do. Seemed like we didn’t know how to play without our best player.”
The Nuggets shot 49.4 percent from the field, blocked 10 shots and outrebounded the Blazers 49-34. Denver also overwhelmed Portland 64-46 in points in the paint.
“In the first quarter, 26 of (the Nuggets’) 28 points were in the paint,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “That’s not good enough (defense). We didn’t put up much resistance handling their dribble handoffs and challenging shots at the rim.”
Denver made seven of its first 11 shots in mounting a 15-9 lead. The difference was 28-17 before Portland closed out the first quarter with five straight points to make it 28-22.
The Blazers made it an 11-0 run to tie the score at 28 early in the second quarter and led briefly at 31-30. Denver used a 10-0 spurt to go ahead 51-38 late in the quarter.
Denver increased a 52-41 halftime lead to 68-49 early in the third quarter. The Nuggets carried an 80-66 edge into the fourth quarter and increased the margin to 91-70 midway through the quarter.
The Trail Blazers got no closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
In his two games against the Nuggets after last season’s trade from Denver to Portland, Nurkic had averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds while shooting .633. Jokic had averaged 11.5 points and 7.5 boards while shooting only .391.
“For whatever reason, (Jokic) becomes more reserved against Nurk,” Malone said before the game. “We need Nikola to step up and play well tonight. We can’t be buddy-buddy with anybody. This is business. We need to get a win tonight.”
Jokic badly outplayed his former teammate Friday night.
“Tonight, I think he got over a mental block,” Malone said. “He went out there and attacked. He was effective all over the floor — scoring, rebounding, play-making.”
NOTES: Portland G Damian Lillard (hamstring) will accompany the Trail Blazers to Los Angeles for their Thursday game against the Lakers, but “he’s most likely not playing,” coach Terry Stotts said. ... Denver reserve G Emmanuel Mudiay (ankle) sat out his third straight game, but coach Mike Malone said Mudiay could be available for the game against the Nuggets on Thursday at Golden State. ... Denver has not lost more than two straight games this season. ... Denver scored 32 of its first 34 points in the paint on 16 baskets — all but two free throws. ... The last time the Blazers lost as many as six straight home games was an eight-game skid to close the 2012-13 season.