The Denver Nuggets welcomed in the Portland Trail Blazers for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Monday evening and took a 1-0 lead despite not playing much defense. They then went into Wednesday’s game looking to duplicate that success and take complete control of the series.

Game 2 was a completely different look than in Game 1. Denver could not make a shot and played one of their worst offensive games of the year which led to Portland winning 97-90.

With the series tied at 1-1 heading to Portland, here are the good, bad and ugly, from Denver’s Game 2 loss.

Good – Not giving up

Denver did not have the game that they wanted offensively, but all is not lost. There were also a few positives in the game that worked in their favor.

The Nuggets were down by as many as 17 points in the first half, but fought back and made it a respectable game. They gave themselves a chance to win the game and it started with their work on the defensive end and winning the rebounding battle.

“I thought they were the aggressors in the first half,” Malone said after the Nuggets Game 2 loss. “They were much more physical in the first half, but I was extremely proud of our guys in the second half. We fought.”

The Nuggets made sure to keep a body on Lillard and not give him open looks by sending multiple defenders his way who all did the best that they could. Lillard was limited to only 14 points on the night.

There was also a defensive adjustment by the Nuggets on shooters as Portland also did not have the type of shooting night that are accustomed to. They went 9-29 from beyond the arc and that was because Denver did not allow many second-chance points or allow the Trail Blazers to get in a rhythm.

Denver won the rebounding battle convincingly (58-47) and were extremely active on offensive rebounds as they had 23 offensive rebounds to Portland’s seven.

Jokic (14 rebounds), Millsap (11 rebounds) and Will Barton (11 rebounds) made sure to hit the glass, but were unable to exploit their advantage as they went a shocking 8-of-24 on second-chance opportunities.

Heading into a pivotal Game 3 it will be up to the Nuggets to try and duplicate that success while also finding an offensive rhythm early. Denver has showed all season long that they are a resilient bunch and did that once again as they fought back in Game 2.

Bad – Possible Injuries

Injuries are something that nobody ever wants to see and, unfortunately, there were two injuries that hurt both teams.

Portland small forward Moe Harkless left in the first half with a rolled ankle and was unable to return to the game. Harkless was pivotal in slowing down Murray early on in the game as his length caused plenty of problems for Denver’s point guard. His injury adds to an already thin Portland front court and, if he has to miss time, it will force Stotts to change things up a bit more.

Another injury was to Nuggets small forward Torrey Craig.

Craig’s play has been one of the major revelations in the playoffs. He has emerged as Denver’s X-factor.

Malone elected to bench Barton and place Craig in the starting lineup due to his work on the defensive end of the floor and it ended up being one of the major reasons that Denver was able to advance to the second round of the playoffs after beating the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.

Early in the second quarter, Craig went down with a nasal contusion fell into the back of Monte Morris’s leg.

Craig did end up returning to the game, but was only able to play 19 minutes. Craig returned to the game wearing a mask, but his play was limited defensively and forced Malik Beasley into having to defend both Lillard and McCollum.

After the game Malone was complimentary of his small forward by saying that he was the unsung hero of the game. Craig was having trouble breathing with his mask on and even had to stop the game once he returned to be looked at by the medical staff.

Both injuries will be something to look at moving forward as both players have been critical for both teams getting to this point and a large part of the game plan moving forward.

Ugly – Season Lows

One of the main reasons that the Nuggets won Game 1 was the way that they started. Denver had a great start as they went into halftime with a three-point lead and did not have to play from behind which led to them playing freely.

Game 2 was not that way as Portland made a few adjustments and that attributed to the Trail Blazers getting off to a hot start and going into the halftime intermission with a 50-35 lead.

“We were getting such open looks but when you are not having a night where you are making shots consistently, you have to attack the basket, have to put pressure on the rim,” Malone said after the game. “You have to think attack instead of settle and I thought in the first half we did not have that mindset.”

35 points is the Nuggets lowest scoring half of the season and led to an historically bad shooting night overall.

Denver finished shooting only 35% from the field and a whopping 20% from beyond the arc. They could not get anything to fall.

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts made a few changes to the lineup such as using Moe Harkless to defend Murray early on. His length and size bothered Murray and that theme became contagious as Portland locked in defensively.

Denver could not get much going offensively and will have to counter whatever Portland throws at them in Game 3. If shots are not falling, they will have to find a way to win in other ways. By going inside and being aggressive, Denver will be able to cause mismatches and make up for whatever shooting deficiencies may arise.

Game 3 will be a game of many changes for both teams, but with the way that Game 2 went, Denver has a few things to  recalibrate and modify if they plan on going into a hostile environment and stealing back homecourt advantage.