The Denver Nuggets can’t catch a break.
Already without three key starters, PJ Dozier went down with a left knee injury toward the end of first quarter and had to be carried off the court by his teammates.
The Nuggets did their best to keep their heads in the game but they had no answer for the Blazers’ 18-3 run late in the second quarter. Portland’s dynamic duo, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, combined for 57 points in their 119-100 blowout victory.
“The most disappointing thing about that run by Portland is that everything that was working for us to that point the ball movement, making the extra pass, executing, went out the window and all the sudden we became a selfish basketball team,” Michael Malone said. “A lot of one-on-one, and a lot of dribbling which led to more turnovers and that’s where we lost the game.”
Malone didn’t have any updates on Dozier’s injury in the postgame press conference and there aren’t any updates on a timetable for Nikola Jokic’s return. He has been sidelined with a wrist injury and missed his third straight game on Tuesday night.
Denver’s mentality has always been the “no excuses” and “next man up” approach so it’s been a wait for the rest of the Nuggets roster to pick up some slack. Veteran Jeff Green played with effort and finished the night with 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting. Monte Morris went 5 of 9 from the field for 16 points and Aaron Gordon and Will Barton each had 11 points. Not much to be proud of in their fifth straight loss.
The Nuggets did come out looking ready to play though after suffering a blowout loss to the Suns on Sunday. Green was in attack mode early and scored seven quick points to give Denver the lead. The Blazers responded with back to back three pointers to go up 19-15. McCollum scored 13 of his 32 points in the first helping ignite a 14-6 run to close the quarter. Portland took a 33-27 lead.
The Nuggets were careless with the basketball and had eight turnovers which led to 12 points for the Blazers including 10 on the fast break.
It was back and fourth for most of the second until Lillard and McCollum took over. Portland had a five point lead late in the quarter but the Nuggets took a three-point lead after hitting two triples with less than 5 minutes left to go. Then Dame Time came early as Lillard went off from the 3-point line scoring 12 of his 25 points in the quarter to fuel an 18-3 run heading into halftime. McCollum chimed in and hit a shot at the buzzer to give Portland a 66-52 lead.
Denver had to play catchup in the third quarter, which has been routine as of late. The turnovers kept coming, however, the Nuggets did show spurts of promise after cutting Portland’s 14-point lead to nine. The Blazers weren’t going away though and they had answers for every Nuggets bucket. Even so, Denver managed to only be down 11 heading into the fourth.
With the game still within reach, the Nuggets allowed the Blazers to go on an 11-2 run which ended all hope of getting back in the game. Turnovers remained an issue in the fourth quarter and throughout the entire game. The Nuggets turned the ball over a total of 19 times resulting in 32 points for the Blazers.
Denver will have two days off before facing the Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday. The Bucks are currently on a four-game winning streak and have a 10-8 record. Hopefully Jokic will make his return on Friday because facing Giannis Antetokounmpo and the reigning champions without their superstar will be no easy task for the Nuggets and they can’t afford to lose six straight.