The Denver Nuggets, fresh off of winning four-straight games, started their five-game road trip with a familiar foe in the Portland Trailblazers. The Nuggets versus the Trailblazers is not a true rivalry, but when they matchup, it almost always results in a completive game.

The Nuggets went into their game on Friday night looking to extend their four-game winning streak to five games and they accomplished their goal. Denver won 113-112 with a nail-biting finish on the road against Portland.

It was not a pretty victory and Denver had a bizarre sequence of events to close out the game, but it was another victory for a team that is rolling and, with that, I give you the good, bad and ugly of the Nuggets’ fifth-straight win.

The Good – Gary Harris returns

For the good it was very difficult to not side with the first half play of the Nuggets. They had one of their best halves of the season as they had a very balanced approach, but what really stood out was the return of Gary Harris.

Harris suffered an ankle injury last week against the Orlando Magic. The injury had Harris limited and he sat out the past two games, but he returned against Portland and bounced back as if he had not missed any time what so ever. Harris started out fast as he finished off the first half with 14 points including this and-one finish.

Harris knocked down open shots, moved well on his ankle while planting and making cuts which shows that the ankle is truly feeling better, and he also finished well at the rim. Harris’s night ended with him pouring in 27 points on 9-of-21 shooting while also knocking down four shots from beyond the arc. He also played great defense as he limited Damian Lillard to only 15 points.

The play of the game came on the final possession when Nikola Jokic turned down an open look and found Harris in the corner with just under 16 seconds left and with the game tied. Harris knocked down the three-pointer which ended up being the game winning basket for the Nuggets.

Denver is at their best at full strength and, with a healthy Harris, they can match up with any team in the league. It was good to have him back.

The Bad – Did not create separation

After Denver got off to a very hot start in the first quarter and led 33-21 after the firs 12 minutes of the game, Denver went through a bit of a dry spell on the offensive end and that allowed Portland to go on a 9-0 run that cut their lead to single digits.

The reason for Denver’s dry spell?  The Nuggets started to turn the ball over, shots were not falling, and they were not putting a body on their man which ended up in results like this.

Denver did restore order as they finished off the second quarter on a strong note and went into halftime up 68-53. That did not stop Portland from fighting back and going on a few more runs in the second half to attempt to win.

Although Denver went into the half up 68-53, they had stretches of bad play and Portland made a push. What was once a 17-point lead went all the way down to eight points as Portland went on a big run in the third quarter. The Trailblazers won the quarter 32-23 setting up for a nail-biting finish.

The fourth quarter was another run by Portland as Denver went three minutes without scoring in the fourth quarter, but the Nuggets made just enough plays to withstand a late game surge from Portland. But then pandemonium took place to finish out the game.

The Ugly – Scary finish  

Denver won the game on the road against a division opponent and that within itself is telling and a positive. But these are also not the type of games that Denver wants to play. The Nuggets had a 17-point lead erased as the Trailblazers fought back and had the opportunity to win the game due to Denver’s late-game mistakes. Denver could not score the basketball late in the game, allowed CJ McCollum to catch fire, and did not execute. That ultimately almost ended up costing them the win.

Denver started going back and forth late in the game, but hung on to a 113-110 lead as it looked as if the game was sealed. In order to get to their 113th point, Jokic caught the ball with an open look at the rim, but turned down the shot and passed it to Harris in the corner who knocked down the open 3-pointer from the corner.

Denver needed just one stop and a couple free throws to seal the deal, but they allowed a layup with 10 seconds left on the clock to close the game within just one point. From there, Denver had the ball and was able to inbound it to Murray. That is when all of the shenanigans began. Murray, who was trying to waste as much time on the clock as possible, began running down the baseline, jumped near out of bounds and threw a pass to Nikola Jokic hoping to avoid an 8-second violation.

However, he was called for a turnover, but after further review, the play ended up being overturned as the officials decided that Murray did not step out of bounds.

The Nuggets again attempted to inbound the ball, and again, shenanigans transpired. Murray got the ball near the baseline corner and was trapped, he then stepped out of bounds, only this time it counted. With 5.6 remaining in the game the Trailblazers trailed by only one point and had a chance to win it all.

McCollum’s shot fell short at the buzzer on a good look that would have secured the win. It was a much-needed win for Denver, but they will have to go back and look at the film on better ways to execute late in games.