Winning And Scoring Streaks End Tuesday Night In Denver

by Casey Holdahl
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DENVER -- Everyone knew that Damian Lillard's ridiculous scoring run and the Trail Blazers' winning streak wasn't going to last forever, but it sure would have been nice for it to extend for just a bit longer.

Portland had a four-game winning streak snapped while Lillard finished with "just" 21 points in a 127-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets in front of an announced sellout of 19,520 Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.

The Trail Blazers are now 23-28 overall and 10-17 on the road this season. Denver has secured the season series versus Portland by winning three of the first four meetings.

The start of Tuesday night's game didn't really portend a blowout, though it wasn't exactly smooth sailing for the Trail Blazers, either. But with Lillard scoring 11 points and the team as a whole shooting a respectable 43 percent from the field, Portland went into the second quarter with a manageable 37-28 deficit.

But it wouldn't stay manageable for long. After playing their best basketball of the season over the last four games, Portland turned in probably their worst quarter of the season Tuesday in Denver.

"Well, second quarter was rough offensively," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Obviously we didn't shoot the ball well... Second quarter was a struggle offensively. That being said, defensively, we made a lot of mistakes in the first half, miscommunications on some switches and cuts and they took advantage of it."

The Trail Blazers scored just 10 points, a season low, on 5-of-25 shooting from the field and 0-of-9 shooting from three. They were out-rebounded by nine, didn't shoot a free throws, were called for a flagrant foul and had just six points on the board with under four minutes to play in the quarter.

By the time the quarter mercifully came to an end, Portland was outscored 27-10 and trailed 64-38 at the intermission.

"Just looking back at (the second quarter), I remember a fair amount of really good looks that we got, we just didn't make shots," said Lillard. "I think it was also a little bit of (the Nuggets), the energy and aggressiveness that they had. Score 10 points in the quarter, we never had a great shot."

An 11-4 run midway through the third quarter gave the Nuggets their largest lead of the game at 90-56, ended what little hope there might have been for a second-half Blazers rally.

From there, all that was left to be decided was how much Portland's reserves would play (answer: the entire fourth quarter), whether they would surpass their lowest scoring total this season (answer: they did, by six points) and if the final would be their largest deficit of the season (answer: at 28 points, it tied their worst loss with the New Year's Day loss to the Knicks).

"It's been a while since we had a game like that," said CJ McCollum. "You got to take the good with the bad, move forward and regroup and get ready for San Antonio on Thursday."

Lillard led the Blazers with 21 points on 8-of-23 shooting, nine assists and two rebounds in 30 minutes. The performance ended a seven-game streak of Lillard scoring at least 34 points and was his lowest point total since scoring 20 versus the Timberwolves on January 9.

McCollum finished with 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting. Gary Trent Jr. added 21 and Anfernee Simons finished with 10.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic finished just short of a triple-double with 29 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in 31 minutes. Jamal Murray tallied 20 points, six assists and Jerami Grant added 17 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes.

The Trail Blazers now return home to host the Spurs in an important contest in terms of playoff positioning for both teams.

"Huge game for us," said McCollum. "It's gonna be crucial down the stretch of the season, could decide our fate."

Tipoff is scheduled for Thursday night at 7 p.m.


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