The Denver Nuggets traveled with some urgency to the Moda Center in Portland but they came out happy from the very hard battle against some Trail Blazers that they never lowered their arms but they gave up 115-120 in one of the most seasoned pavilions of the competition. The away victory puts the 2-1 in the tie in favor of the Colorado team.
The 8,000 fans who occupied the stands they were not enough encouragement for Damian Lillard and company, who fell once more surrendered to the mastery of Nikola Jokic, leader of the visiting win with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists (12-24 TC; 4-7 3P).
Denver’s victory had two other very relevant protagonists. Austin rivers, who arrived to cover part of the gap left by Jamal Murray after his serious injury in the crossed knee, made his best game as Nugget with 21 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists after scoring 5 of 10 triples in the game.
A series of four targets from the perimeter in a row Doc Rivers’ son, who came to the team on a 10-day contract last April, was essential in sentencing the game. Denver’s 20 total 3s made the difference.
The other protagonist was a Facundo Campazzo that continues to grow at an excellent pace as a member of the starting five of the team coached by Michael Malone. The Argentine, with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals and a block, returned to despair in defense a CJ McCollum who looks incredulous with the performance of short From Cordoba.
McCollum, with 22 points and 9 rebounds, was once again the main complement in attack of a Lillard who tried every way with 37 points and 5 assists. The Blazers were not served by the best support from the rest of the squad accessories either:
Carmelo Anthony had 17 points from the bench, while the headlines Norman Powell (18 points) and Jusuf Nurkic (13 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists) recovered their best version in the tie. Elimination by accumulation of faults of Bosnian five minutes from the end seriously damaged the performance of the home team.
The first quarter smiled at Denver (30-39) and the rest of the meeting was a real dog fight with constant give and take. The difference at halftime was already 5 points (59-64) and both the third and last quarter ended in a technical tie (20-20; 36-36).
The feeling is that the Nuggets have something more than the Blazers for now. To begin with, they have the experience of having reached the Conference Finals last year. Then they have the expertise and know-how of the season’s top MVP candidate. They are factors that add to a consolidated and well-oiled team.
It has merit that Denver has recovered from the scare in the first game not counting Murray’s points, who made a stellar performance in the playoffs last year. The Canadian point guard was the spark that used to finish Jokic’s work throughout the match.
Now, Jokic continues to stone as before and it is the rest of their companions, in an even more choral way, who complete the task for them. Last night, for example, Michael Porter Jr., with 15 points, and Aaron Gordon, with 13 goals, they completed the full headlines in double digits for the visitors.
Although the battles have been even, it appears that the Nuggets have something more than the Blazers to go through for now.