Denver Nuggets 124, Portland Trail Blazers 95: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

It would be hard to script a better homestand for the Denver Nuggets. With a 124-95 victory over a familiar foe in the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver swept its week-long stay in the Mile High City and extended its winning streak to five games. Hot 3-point shooting and a dominant performance from the second unit fueled the comfortable victory.

Although both teams struggled offensively to begin Sunday’s game, Denver got more stops in the opening five minutes to earn a 10-2 lead. Portland shot 1-of-8 during this stretch, compared to 4-of-12 for the Nuggets. Things didn’t get much better for the Trail Blazers during the rest of the quarter, as Nikola Jokić dished out seven assists in the frame as Denver secured a 33-18 advantage after the first 12 minutes. The Nuggets hit five 3-pointers in the quarter, while Portland shot 1-of-11 from deep.

Denver’s second unit maintained the momentum to begin the second quarter as Bones Hyland and Facundo Campazzo each scored 8 points in the early stages of the frame. The Nuggets continued to thrive beyond the arc, finishing the first half with nine made 3-pointers. Denver received 27 points from the second unit in the first half and ultimately took a 67-53 lead heading into the break.

The Nuggets pushed the lead up to 18 early in the third quarter, but Portland continued to slowly chip away at Denver’s advantage, eventually cutting it down to 12 with five minutes remaining in the quarter. Despite 14 points from Jokić in the quarter, the Nuggets only went into the fourth quarter with a 91-79 advantage.

PJ Dozier and JaMychal Green combined for a 7-0 run to open the fourth quarter as Denver’s lead grew to 19 points. The Nuggets’ second unit blew the game open in the ensuing minutes, pushing the lead up to 109-83 as the 3-pointers continued to fall. Both teams went to their deep reserves to close out Sunday’s contest.

Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s win.

Second unit comes alive

As a result of a late scratch from the lineup for Will Barton, Denver’s backcourt rotation shifted Sunday night, presenting an opportunity for Hyland and Campazzo to share the floor. The two didn’t waste any time in the first half, combining for 21 points (including five 3-pointers) in the first half alone as they fueled Denver’s second unit, which chipped in with 27 points in the first 24 minutes.

In the second half, Dozier and Green took over as they caught fire from downtown. In the end, Hyland led the unit with 18 points, with Campazzo (13), Green (12), and Dozier (12) all chipping in.

MVP in control early and often

It didn’t take long for Jokić to make his impact felt Sunday night. The reigning MVP dished out seven assists in the first quarter alone and then followed that up with a 14-point third quarter, highlighting his ability to impact the game in several ways.

Jokić finished with 28 points, nine assists, and nine rebounds in the win as he continues to build another case for a second-consecutive Most Valuable Player trophy. As a result of Denver’s comfortably victory, Jokić only played 28 minutes, which could come in handy with Denver playing Monday night in Dallas.

Nuggets rediscover hot 3-point shooting

One of the major stories of the season up to this point has been Denver’s struggles from beyond the arc. The Nuggets were near the bottom of the league in 3-point percentage heading into Sunday’s slate of games, but that was all thrown out the window against Portland.

Denver shot 19-of-40 (47.5 percent) in the victory, which marked a season-high in made threes for the Mile High squad. Portland’s defense was vulnerable from downtown heading into the first meeting of the season between the two teams, and Denver certainly took advantage.

Denver is right back in action Monday night against the Mavericks (6 p.m. MT).

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