Denver Nuggets 140, Portland Trail Blazers 108: Three Takeaways

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It’d be hard to ask for a better or more exciting bounce back performance from the Denver Nuggets than their 140-108 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday night. Following a low-scoring loss in Los Angeles Tuesday, the Nuggets came out firing on all cylinders at Ball Arena against a shorthanded Trail Blazers squad, which resulted in the comfortable victory.

It was a back-and-forth affair to open Thursday’s contest, with Denver holding a slight 14-12 lead after the first five minutes. Although the Nuggets struggled with turnovers early on, shots were falling at a high clip, which certainly helped as they dropped 41 points in the frame. Denver shot 72.7 percent from the field and took a 41-28 lead into the second quarter.

The Nuggets extended the lead to 15 early in the second quarter as the offense continued to flow. Denver had 16 points off the bench with seven minutes remaining in the first half, highlighting the impact the second unit had as the Mile High squad gained control of the game. Portland couldn’t get enough stops in the half as the Nuggets secured a 72-55 advantage at the break as a result of 64.4 percent shooting from the field, which included 7-of-16 from beyond the arc.

Both teams struggled out of the gates to begin the second half, combining for five points through the first three minutes of the third quarter. Unfortunately for Portland, Denver regained its rhythm on offense and pushed the lead to 25 at 83-58, the largest of the night up to that point. Things only got better for the Nuggets heading into the fourth quarter, as the Mile High squad took a 101-80 advantage into the final 12 minutes.

A quick 8-0 run from Denver increased the lead to 29 and essentially put Thursday’s game to bed early. Both teams relied on bench-heavy lineups to begin the final frame and that continued down the stretch as the game’s outcome was all but decided.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s win.

Denver’s offense was in a rhythm

Thursday’s game was a polar opposite to Denver’s tough loss Tuesday night in LA. The Nuggets scored 85 points against the Clippers Tuesday night, then turned around and scored 72 points in the first half at Ball Arena on Thursday. The Mile High squad shot 64.4 percent from the field, dished out 19 assists, and knocked down seven threes in the first 24 minutes alone.

Although they slightly slowed down in the second half, the Nuggets still broke out of their mini slump with 140 points against the Trail Blazers on extremely efficient shooting and effective ball movement. Denver finished the win at 62.7 percent from the field, 50 percent (21-of-42) from beyond the arc, and with 35 assists.

Uncle Jeff continues to deliver

Heading into Thursday’s contest, Jeff Green was averaging 15.3 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting from the field in his three January games since returning from health and safety protocols. With JaMychal Green out against Portland, Jeff returned to his starting role and didn’t skip a beat.

The 35-year-old veteran dropped 15 points in the first half (on 7-of-8 shooting) and injected some energy into the Ball Arena crowd with several highlight dunks. Green ultimately finished Thursday’s win with 19 points and five rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting, continuing his run of impressive play for the Nuggets.

Denver won the second unit battle

Led by Facundo Campazzo, the Nuggets’ bench was active early and often Thursday night. Campazzo led the charge with 18 points and 12 assists in his 28 minutes of action, while Bones Hyland (17 points) and Zeke Nnaji (16 points and nine rebounds) chipped into the cause. In the end, Denver’s second unit outscored Portland’s 66-39.

Denver’s rotation continues to change game to game due to injuries and absences, making Thursday’s performance from the second unit a welcomed addition to the team’s overall performance. When Campazzo has it going on both ends of the floor like he did against Portland, Denver’s bench can be a formidable group.

The Nuggets return to action Saturday against the Lakers (7 p.m. MT).