Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. falls in first round of NBA 2K Tournament

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

The Denver Nuggets were slated to face off against the Utah Jazz this Sunday evening. Such a matchup between division rivals may have gone a long way in deciding the eventual playoff positioning for both teams, but as a result of the COVID-19 virus, the world has shifted its focus to staying safe and healthy through social distancing and virtual interactions.

In that spirit, the Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. participated in the NBA 2K players tournament, which seeded 16 NBA players in a single-elimination draw to decide a champion. Following the four first-round matchups that took place Friday, Porter Jr. was the third matchup on Sunday as he took on Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns.

As the two players were deciding on which teams to use, Porter Jr. proposed a virtual matchup between the player’s real-life teams. However, Booker wasn’t as enthused about the idea of using Phoenix on the virtual hardwood. As a result, the two settled on a matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers (controlled by Porter Jr.) and the Milwaukee Bucks (Booker’s choice).

Porter Jr. defended his choice of the Lakers by revealing that he was saving the Nuggets for the championship round (players are only allowed to use a team once in the tournament).

The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair, as Porter Jr. jumped out to an early lead with LeBron James leading the way. However, once Booker got comfortable with the Bucks’ scheme and shooting motions of the players, his offense took control of the game.

Booker continuously relied on a drive-and-kick approach on offense, which resulted in countless open 3-pointers, especially for Brook Lopez, who took advantage of the Lakers’ traditional big men such as Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee, who tend to stick inside the paint. Booker and the Bucks led 42-36 at the halftime break.

Although Porter Jr. made a short comeback as a result of a significant rebounding advantage, Booker continued to exploit Milwaukee’s explosive offense with effective ball movement and a barrage of 3-pointers, which pushed the lead up to double-digits late in the third quarter. Although Porter Jr. slightly cut the deficit, Booker still held a 59-51 lead heading into the final frame.

The approach on offense can be perfectly encapsulated by the 3-point shooting numbers through the first three quarters, as Booker’s Bucks were 9-of-18 from beyond the arc, compared to Porter Jr.’s Lakers, who missed the only three attempts from deep during that stretch.

However, the game was far from decided. Porter Jr. continued to attack inside the paint and cut the deficit down to just two points with two minutes remaining. As was the case throughout the first three quarters, Booker continued to feast on open looks from downtown, which ultimately decided Porter Jr.’s fate, with a final score of 85-75.

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