The Portland Trail Blazers put their 18-game home-opener winning streak on the line Wednesday Night with the Denver Nuggets in town. There was plenty to like as Portland started fast. However, they failed to take advantage of the opportunities Denver gave them, eventually falling short in front of 19,991 fans at Moda Center.
Denver Nuggets Outlast Portland Trail Blazers
Not Taking Advantage
The main story of the game for Portland was not taking advantage of opportunities. The main opportunity for them was presented when Nikola Jokic picked up his third foul in the first four minutes. That prompted Jokic to sit out the remainder of the first quarter, and all of the second quarter. Portland was outscored in the second quarter 30-23 after winning the first quarter 27-24.
Also, Denver turned it over 19 times. However, Portland failed to take advantage of that. They only racked up 12 fast break points and turned the ball over 20 times themselves. Ultimately, not taking advantage of those opportunities is the biggest reason Portland came up short.
The New Additions Can Be Contributors
There were a lot of questions coming in on how the new additions would fit in. The early returns are good. Especially with Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside got the start in this one, and he had a double-double in the first half and ended up finishing with 16 points, 19 rebounds, and two blocks.
Don’t expect that from Whiteside every night. However, he looked very engaged on both ends of the floor, and if he is going to be engaged, nobody doubts his talent.
The other new addition that looked solid in his debut was Kent Bazemore. His stat line wasn’t quite as flashy, though. He only scored four points and he was 1/7 shooting and 0/3 from three. However, Bazemore showed his prowess on the defensive end racking up five steals. The shots will start to fall for Bazemore and his ability to be disruptive on the wing was a welcome sight.
The most notable discrepancy in the stat sheet was the three-point shooting. the Trail Blazers shot 7/28, while Denver shot an extremely efficient 18/32. And for Denver, it wasn’t one guy who stood out. Paul Millsap, Jokic, and Jamal Murray each hit three, while Will Barton, Jerami Grant, and Torrey Craig all hit two. And predictably, they were all efficient.
Ironically, Portland felt like they improved their three-point shooting this offseason. Of course, it’s just one game. But CJ McCollum was the only efficient shooter going 2/4. Damian Lillard scored 32 points but was only 3/10 from distance.
In Portland’s defense, Denver has a very good defense on the perimeter. Still, they need to be better.
Stars Not Playing Like Stars
Nikola Jokic did have 20 points and 13 rebounds, but his impact wasn’t felt quite like normal. It was felt in the second half, but with him only playing four minutes in the first half and 24 minutes total, his impact would’ve been completely felt had he not gotten into early foul trouble. While Jokic was limited to an extent by foul trouble, his impact was felt in the fourth quarter, where he had 16 points, which is ultimately where stars need to show up.
On the Portland side, Lillard had 32 points as mentioned. However, he wasn’t great from distance. If he would’ve been better from distance Portland would’ve had a much better chance to win. However, this loss can’t be pinned on him at all. He still finished with eight assists and four rebounds and did a great job of getting to the free-throw line (9/10).
The main star that didn’t play like they need to was CJ McCollum. McCollum got off to a fast start, but only finished with 12 points. That wasn’t because of a lack of aggressiveness. McCollum only made five field goals on 18 attempts. He also failed to impact the game in other ways, finishing with only three rebounds and three assists while turning the ball over five times.
Up Next for the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets
Portland will be leaving town for a four-game road trip. That trip will open with a game against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, and will be followed by games against the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
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