Blazers Finish Back-To-Back With Another One-Point Loss, This Time To Denver

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- Different opponent, different night, same result.

After losing to the Clippers by one Tuesday night in the first game of a back-to-back, the Trail Blazers followed up with yet another one-point loss, 106-105, to the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night at the Moda Center.

“Three of our last four losses have been last shot, could have gone one way or the other,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I was pleased with the way we competed for most the game. We had a couple of lulls offensively I thought in the second quarter but we competed throughout the game and we out ourselves in position to win against a good team. It’s very disappointing to lose this game but I think, as I said, I think we’re playing better basketball.”

The Trail Blazers are now 32-26 overall and 16-14 at home this season. Portland has now lost three-straight, five of their last six and both of their meetings with the Nuggets this season. And with the loss, the Trail Blazers are just a half game up on the Dallas Mavericks for sixth in the Western Conference.

Despite their lack of success this season versus teams above them in the standings, the Trail Blazers looked like they might actually pull away from the Nuggets, currently the fourth-place team in the West, on multiple occasions Wednesday night. They held the Nuggets scoreless for over six minutes in the second quarter and went on an 18-2 run in the third quarter, both of which resulted in the Trail Blazers taking healthy leads.

But every time they had a chance to pull away, they let the Nuggets back into the game. What was an eight-point Portland lead in the second quarter turned into a three-point deficit by the half. And after going up 77-67 with just over five minutes to play in the third, Portland was outscored 15-7 to go into the fourth leading by two.

“We’ve got a bad habit of working hard and putting possessions together and putting stretches together and then we relax,” said Damian Lillard. “We build a 10-point lead or an eight-point lead and then we feel like we got room and we just relax. You can see it and you can feel it sometimes where it’s like, well two minutes ago they wouldn’t have got that cut. Two minutes ago, we would have came up with that rebound. So it’s like that urgency and that focus, it can’t waiver. When it’s up and down and you playing against good teams, they’ll make you pay for it.”

The game would remain close thereafter, with neither team going up my more than six in the fourth. And just as was the case versus the Clippers, the game came down to the final possession.

Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon corralled a rebound after Nikola Jokic missed a three with 11.6 seconds to play, but Lillard managed to tie him up to force a jump ball. Lillard would win the tip, with Robert Covington coming away with the ball and a chance to make the go-ahead basket down 106-105. But rather than driving, Covington found Norman Powell open for a floater just before time expired, but the ball rimmed off, sealing yet another loss to a team above .500.

Lillard, who returned to the lineup Wednesday night after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury, finished with 22 points, five assists and four rebounds in 37 minutes. Powell contributed 17 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 35 minutes.

CJ McCollum went 6-of-13 for 14 points while grabbing nine rebounds and handing out five assists. Carmelo Anthony scored 12 points off the bench and Kanter added 11. Jusuf Nurkic, who also returned to the lineup after sitting out Tuesday’s contest, finished with eight points, seven rebounds and a team-high six assists in 29 minutes.

Jokic led the Nuggets with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Portland now has a day off before hosting the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night in the first of two consecutive games versus the Tennessee-based club. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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