Denver Nuggets 106, Portland Trail Blazers 105: Three takeaways
The Nuggets are now on a four-game win streak, thanks to a gritty 106-105 win over their rival, the Trail Blazers, in Portland.
With both teams struggling to find an offensive rhythm, this won’t be a game that’s going into the NBA classics. Still, it’s another example of the Nuggets finding ways to win when they aren’t at their best. It’s a trait that all of the great NBA contenders have.
Nikola Jokić paced Denver with 25 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. The Nuggets starting lineup of Jokić, Facundo Campazzo, Will Barton III, Michael Porter Jr., and Aaron Gordon all finished in double-figures. Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard led his team with 22 points on 9 of 23 shooting.
The Nuggets are now seeking their fifth consecutive victory when they travel to the Bay Area to face the Warriors Friday (8 p.m. MT, ESPN).
Here are the takeaways
Defense holds Portland’s star backcourt
As good as Damian Lillard has been throughout his career, and his numbers speak for themselves, Denver seemingly has the formula to slow him down.
Lillard shot just 39.1 percent from the floor and hit just 2 of 10 from three. This continues a trend against the Nuggets. Lillard has averaged 22.9 points against Denver in his career, which places the team in the bottom third of scoring averages against his opponents.
Campazzo and recent signing Shaq Harrison stepped up to help slow the six-time All-Star down.
Denver’s efforts didn’t stop with Lillard. It was also effective in slowing his star backcourt partner, CJ McCollum, to an off-night as well. The veteran shooting guard put up 14, nine below his season average, and shot 6 of 14. Barton III, PJ Dozier, and even Gordon all played a role in containing the guard.
Austin Rivers makes debut
Rivers might be one of the most anticipated 10-day signings in recent memory, but with good reason.
The former Duke star can create off the dribble and is a decent three-point shooter. While there was some obvious rust due to be without a team for almost a month, Rivers did some positive things in his 14 minutes of action.
The combo guard had a solid drive or two in the contest and hit an important three from 30 feet out that pushed the Nuggets lead to 97-93. Rivers would finish the night with five points and three boards.
Starters all play a part
Jokić had a strong night, but this was a strong overall performance – especially by the starters.
Porter Jr. got hot early on, connecting on his first eight buckets to score 17 in a stunning first quarter. Although he would be held quiet offensively for the remainder of the contest, other starters stepped up.
Campazzo finished just one made three shy from tying his career-high of five and finished with 12 points, five rebounds, and three dimes. Gordon had a solid two-way game, adding 12 points, six boards, and two steals. Finally, Barton III had another strong all-around game, posting 14 points, six boards, four assists, and a steal.