Homestand Ends, Home Win Streak Continues With Victory Versus Nuggets

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers played three minutes of really good basketball Tuesday night. And against an extremely undermanned Nuggets team, those three really good minutes were enough.

After failing to get any separation for most of the first half, the Trail Blazers closed out of the second quarter with a 18-3 run that set up a 119-100 victory in front of a crowd of 17,052 Tuesday night at Moda Center.

“You know the notable plays are Dame’s shot making, but it came from turnovers,” said Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “CJ had two really big on ball steals at that point. Isolation situation, stepped up, two steals that led to baskets. So the defense really kind of sparked that run for us and I said up here several times, talking about us closing out quarters and halves and I was very happy with how we closed up the first half. Our defense led to good offense.”

The Trail Blazers are now 10-8 overall and 9-1 at home this season. Portland has won nine-straight at Moda Center and have not lost on their home court since their season opener versus the Kings on October 20.

Even though the Blazers have proven that they can lose to any collection of players on the road this season, they’ve had no such issue coming away with wins at home versus the understaffed. They might not look especially dynamic in the process, but the end result is all that matters.

So versus a Nuggets team missing Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Nah’Shon Hyland due to injury, the question didn’t seem whether the Trail Blazers would get the win, but by how much.

But the Denver players who were available Tuesday night were up for the challenge. Though the Blazers were never down by more than two points, there were 11 lead changes and five ties in the first half, proof that while the home team might have had more talent, they weren’t necessarily playing a better game.

At least not until the end of the second quarter.

Thanks to a combination of well-timed defensive plays -- Covington had a block with both McCollum and Powell tallying a steal -- and the three-guard lineup coming to life offensively, the Trail Blazers went on a 16-0 run between the 2:55 and 0:30 marks of the second quarter to turn what was a two-point deficit into a 64-49 lead.

“We had good activity. The activity was better and the communication was better, active hands, got out and ran. It’s easier to score in transition when defense isn’t set and I think we took advantage of kick aheads, threes, triple penetration, things like that.”

A Will Barton three with 16 seconds to play in the first half would break the run, but McCollum finished a 13-foot floater as time expired to push Portland’s advantage to 66-52 going into the intermission.

While Portland never put Denver down for the count in the second half, they did enough to keep them at a safe distance. And between outscoring the Nuggets 28-2 in fastbreak points and turning 19 turnovers into 32 points, the Trail Blazers were able to ride out the victory without too much trouble.

“It’s a trap game,” said McCollum. “You got a lot of players out and their best player is obviously hurt and you never really know what to expect from all the players, what type of mentality they’re going to have. Everybody has the green light so that can be very difficult. But I thought we responded well. We had a couple lulls where we gave up some baskets, gave up some easy corner threes and some breakdowns. All in all, I thought we did what we were supposed to do.”

STATISTICS

CJ McCollum led all scorers with 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting from the field and 5-of-9 shooting from three to go with three assists, three rebounds and two steals in 34 minutes. It was his second game this season with 30-plus points.

Damian Lillard, fresh off of being named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, went 9-of-13 from the field and 5-of-8 from three to finish with 25 points while also tallying five assists, three rebounds and a steal in 31 minutes.

Norman Powell added 15 points on 50 percent shooting, three assists and two rebounds in 26 minutes. Anfernee Simons went for 14 points, five rebounds and two assists. Nassir Little went 5-of-9 for 13 points and five rebounds as well.

Jeff Green led the Nuggets with 24 points with Monte Morris contributing 16 and both Aaron Gordon and Will Barton adding 11.

HIGHLIGHTS

NOTABLE

• The Trail Blazers won their ninth straight game at Moda Center. Portland last won nine consecutive home games from February 14 to March 17, 2018.

• Portland evened the season series against Denver at 1-1.

• The Trail Blazers committed nine turnovers, matching their season low. Portland scored 32 points off of Denver’s 19 turnovers.

• Portland’s bench outscored the Denver reserves, 32-29.

• The Trail Blazers outrebounded the Nuggets, 44-37, and outscored them in the paint,42-38.

QUOTABLE

“I think we're just figuring each other out. I think it takes time when you get new staff, new structure, new responsibility, new ideas, new principles. I think it takes time to kind of collaborate. Slowly but surely we're getting better, communicating better, we’re starting to understand exactly what Chauncey and the staff want from us.” -- CJ McCollum

NEXT UP

With a perfect four-game homestand in the books, the Trail Blazers hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday starting with a tilt versus the Kings in Sacramento on the second night of a back-to-back. Tipoff is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

NEXT UP:

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