The Denver Nuggets defeated Portland Trail Blazers in the rematch of last year’s Western Conference semifinals. Michael Malone’s guys eventually broke the defiance of the guests in the final quarter, avoiding the scenario from Game 7 when Portland managed to come back and eliminate the Nuggets, erasing a huge deficit. The finals result at the Pepsi Center tonight was 114-99.
The crucial sequence of the match was in the late part of the third when the home team scored 10 straight points, not allowing a single one. With 2:47 left, Damian Lillard scored a three to bring his side one point away from the hosts. 78-79. However, the Nuggets shifted into a higher gear, leaving the Blazers behind.
“We are looking for it (rhythm), we are finding it,” Nikola Jokic stated during the on-court interview. “Right now we are kinda unsure about it, but when we start playing like we supposed to play, we are really good. So, hopefully we are going to continue play like this.”
They didn’t stop there, but continued in the same manner early in the fourth, emphasizing the defensive effort and holding the guests to just four points scored over the opening four and a half minutes of that period. Following Monte Morris layup with 7:24 left, Denver reached a 17-point advantage, 98-82.
Nuggets would also close the contest with a strong defense, preventing their rivals from scoring at least one point in the last 3:08.
Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant scored 20 points each in this one. The Joker added 11 boards, had 6 assists and was all over the place tonight. Meanwhile, Grant scored 5 threes in 6 attempts and added 5 boards. It was one of his best performances of the season, proving that the Nuggets did the right thing by acquiring him from OKC.
Will Barton and Gary Harris had 15 each, with the note that Barton also added 11 rebounds. Jamal Murray was back on the floor after a nasty hit he took against the 76ers and scored 12 in 28 minutes.
The home team was perfect from behind the three-point line, making 18 of their 36 attempts. Also, they outrebounded the Blazers 48-35, limiting the guests on the glass, and preventing them from maintaining the balance in that aspect of the contest.
“A lot like in Game 1 (WCSF) they made 18 threes, they made 18 threes tonight,” Stotts revealed what made a difference on the floor tonight. “They shot a great percentage, they got of a great start in the first quarter shooting well, and they got a nice rhythm.”
The only bright spot in Terry Stotts’ crew was fantastic Hassan Whiteside, who had 33 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks, shooting 15 of 21 from the field, including a three made.
Hassan Whiteside out here hitting 3s…has 11 points in the first quarter. Ok. pic.twitter.com/9JTE4vhUpH
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) December 13, 2019
Carmelo Anthony had 20 with 9 boards, while Damian Lillard, with 13 and CJ McCollum with 15 points, failed to meet the expectations.
Up next, the Blazers (10-16) are heading for Phoenix to meet the Suns next Monday. Following that contest, Portland has a four-game homestand at home during which they host the Warriors, Magic, Timberwolves, and the Pelicans.
As for the Nuggets (15-8), this was the first of their five straight games at home. After this one, Jokic and the guys play against the Thunder on Saturday, then vs. the Knicks, Magic, and the Timberwolves.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.