Trail Blazers blow past Nuggets
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers wanted to make a statement after losing two in a row at home, including a 101-97 setback to the injury-plagued Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.
The Trail Blazers came across loud and clear Monday night at the Moda Center, dominating the Denver Nuggets 99-82.
Portland shot a season-best 52.1 percent from the field and held Denver to a season-low 35.7 percent. It was the poorest shooting game by a Portland opponent all season.
“That was our most complete game of the year,” said forward Evan Turner, who came off the bench to sink 7 of 11 shots and contribute 14 points and five assists. “That was an all-around performance.”
Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum scored 17 points apiece and Damian Lillard chipped in 15 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals for the Trail Blazers (7-6), who led by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter.
“We knew what was at stake,” said McCollum, who also made 7 of 11 shots from the field. “We didn’t want to lose three games in a row. We didn’t want to have another letdown against a very good team that was playing extremely well. We knew we had to raise our level of intensity, especially at the defensive end.”
Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray each scored 18 points for the Nuggets (8-6), who had won seven of their last nine outings.
“(The Blazers) were physical,” Denver coach Mike Malone said. “They guarded us very well and made us feel them all night.”
Portland reserves combined for 17-of-26 shooting and outscored their Denver counterparts 42-14.
“The difference in the game was their bench,” Malone said.
Denver jumped to a 12-5 lead in the game’s first three minutes. The Trail Blazers outscored the Nuggets 18-4 in the next five minutes to go in front 23-16.
The Blazers stoked the margin to 43-29 midway through the second quarter. The Nuggets rallied to within 50-47 late in the quarter, and Portland took a five-point advantage into halftime.
The Blazers outscored the Nuggets 30-17 in the third quarter to hike their lead to 84-66 heading into the fourth quarter.
The lead grew to 93-70 midway through the fourth quarter, and soon the starters had given way to reserves.
“It was a good bounce-back win,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I was really pleased with our defense. (The Nuggets) came in hitting on all cylinders offensively. They were really on a roll. That was my biggest concern. We had to play well at both ends, and we did.”
Denver center Nikola Jokic, who came in with double-doubles in eight of his previous 10 games, never found a rhythm. Jokic, who was averaging 17.2 points and 12.0 rebounds, scored six points on 2-of-9 shooting and had seven rebounds in 35 minutes.
“He had a bad game,” said Nurkic, a teammate of Jokic in Denver until a midseason trade last February. “He is a great player. He has had a lot of big games this year.
“I know exactly what he wants to do. That’s my cheating thing. We stopped him really well and didn’t allow him to do so much. As a team, we did a great job.”
Jokic gave credit to the Blazers.
“They were just better than us the whole game,” he said. “They were more aggressive. On defense, every handoff, every screen they were fighting through. They are just a good team.”
NOTES: The Trail Blazers have won nine straight at Moda Center and 15 of the last 17 meetings overall against the Nuggets. ... Portland rookie F Caleb Swanigan made his first start. He had six points and five rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter ... Portland C/F Meyers Leonard (ankle) was activated after missing the previous eight games. He did see any duty. ... Denver G Gary Harris (shoulder) did not play for the second straight game. ... The Blazers rank last in the NBA in fast-break points per game (4.6) and turnovers forced (13.4). Coach Terry Stotts said the latter affects the former, “but it’s not just one thing. When we get defensive rebounds, how quickly do we outlet it? Do we make the pass ahead as much as we need to? Are the wings there to pass ahead to?” Portland finished with only four fast-break points Monday night.