Old And New In Preseason Loss To Nuggets

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers' first preseason contest of their 2019-20 exhibition schedule versus the Denver Nuggets served as both a celebration of the old and a first look at the new.

In the opening salvo of the teams' year-long celebration of their 50th anniversary season, held at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Trail Blazers recognized various luminaries in franchise history such as Geoff Petrie, Jim Barnett, Harry Glickman and Bill Schonely. And throughout the game, fans who have been with the team since the start, including the first season ticket holder and a couple who met at a game before marrying and staying together for 30+ years.

As for the new, Tuesday's game was the first contest, albeit preseason, for the new additions to this year's team, giving fans in attendance, not to mention those watching nationally on ESPN, a glimpse of what might be on the horizon for the revamped roster.

So in terms of celebrating history and considering the future, Tuesday night's game goes down as a success, even if the final score didn't indicate as much.

After a close contest through the first half, the Nuggets pulled away after the intermission to defeat the Trail Blazers 105-94 in the first preseason game of the season for both teams.

"It looked like a first exhibition game," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stott. "First half was not bad, third quarter was pretty sloppy with turnovers. We didn't shoot the ball well for most of the game. Kind of to be expected for the first game."

Especially a first game for a team with five new players.

"Guys are just a tad bit off with some timing issues on jump shots," said Kent Bazemore, who Portland acquired during the 2019 offseason via trade from Atlanta. "We got a lot of great looks early, they're gonna fall throughout the season, no doubt... Everybody that stepped on the floor played extremely hard. I'm looking forward to to it, I had a really, really good time tonight."

As did most everyone in attendance, despite the final score. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum both playing just 15 minutes, fans were able to get a good look at Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside, Nassir Little and Mario Hezonja, who excited the crowd and his teammates with a willingness to push the ball up the court at every opportunity.

"He's a playmaker," said Lillard of Hezonja. "Having the luxury of having somebody else who's a really good playmaking. Same role as (Evan Turner), but more up tempo. He's going downhill, and just a lot to hose times the weak side falls asleep and the defense plays down, he's zipping those passes through the defense. He sees that, so I think that's going to be really good for me and CJ to be on the weak side of the defense and knowing that shot could be there."

After trailing by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter, Portland's reserves cut Denver's lead to five thanks to a 13-2 run, thanks in large part to the energetic play of rookie Nassir Little.

"Personally, I felt great out there," said the rookie out of North Carolina. "Bringing energy to the court as always."

But in the end, the visitors were able to stop the run and come away with an 11-point victory.

TOP PERFORMERS

Mario Hezonja came off the bench to score 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field, size rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes.

Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons and Skal Labissiere each finished with 10 points, with the latter also adding 12 rebounds for the double-double.

Rookies Nassir Little and Moses Brown each finished with eight points and Kent Bazemore tallied seven steals to go with five points, four rebounds and an assist in just under 20 minutes.

The Nuggets had five players finish in double figures led by 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field for Paul Millsap.

QUOTABLE

"No, it's not new. I got this up in Seattle 22 years ago, and it was used then, too." -- Terry Stotts on the polyester jacket he wore Tuesday night

HIGHLIGHTS

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers have a day to iron out the kinks from Tuesday's game before hosting Maccabi Haifa Thursday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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