Nuggets Hang On to Take Down Blazers


The Denver Nuggets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night by a score of 108-104. In a game which saw 14 lead changes and various big performances, the Nuggets pulled out a big win against a quality Blazers team.

Here’s a rundown of how the game went, quarter by quarter.

First Quarter:

The first quarter was largely a back-and-forth affair, with the two teams exchanging baskets and not playing a whole lot of defense. The Nuggets started out the game rocky, with multiple turnovers and were unable to get a whole lot going offensively. After the first few possessions, the Nuggets settled down and showed flashes of terrific ball movement.

J.J. Hickson made an immediate impact after being inserted into the starting lineup, as he scored six points, grabbed two rebounds, blocked two shots and played some uncharacteristically good defense in the first eight minutes of the game.

Portland led the Nuggets 33-29 at the end of the first quarter.

Second Quarter:

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Denver started out the second period hot, as they jumped out to a 9-0 run and took a 40-36 lead. The Nuggets’ second unit did a very nice job of relieving the starters, as they were able to give the team a bit of a lead.

The Nuggets starters were unable to play at the same level as the second unit. Once the starters re-entered the game, Denver’s lead vanished. The offense wasn’t flowing as well as it did with the bench players, with plenty of bad shots being forced.

One Nuggets starter who did play well in the second quarter was Kenneth Faried. The Manimal did some Manimal-like things, ripped rebounds away from the Blazers for easy dunks, and played with his usual high energy.

Denver went on a bit of a run to end the first half. As they found themselves down by as much as sixth late in the second quarter, the Nuggets ended the half on a high note and were able to shorten the deficit to just one with a Randy Foye three.

Score at Halftime: Blazers 58, Nuggets 57

First Half Observations:

The Nuggets had no answer for Damian Lillard in the first half. Dame scored 20 points on 7-12 shooting in the first 24 minutes, scoring with ease whenever he wanted. While shutting down a player of Lillard’s caliber is no easy task, allowing him to go off like that is something the Nuggets cannot afford to do.

While the Nuggets weren’t able to contain Lillard, they were able to keep C.J. McCollum in check for the first half, as struggled to just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half.

It was an impressive first half for Randy Foye, as he handled the backup point guard duties with Jameer Nelson out with a back injury. Foye led the Nuggets 10 first half points, shooting 3-of-3 from the field, including two three-pointers.

Danilo Gallinari struggled a bit in the first half, especially in the second quarter. He seemed to be forcing the issue too often, shooting some pretty bad shots. He shot just 2-of-7 from the field in the half.

Third Quarter:

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Similar to the first quarter, the start of the third period saw the two teams exchanging buckets. Kenneth Faried continued to make a big impact for the Nuggets, as he flew all over the place for rebounds, putbacks and easy layups. He also made a handful of nice and-ones.

However, the Nuggets’ starters began to pull away as the third quarter carried on. Led by Hickson and Faried dominating the boards and the paint, the Nuggets lead rose to as much as seven late in the third.

Denver did a much better job of slowing Damian Lillard down in the third frame. They held him to six points after he scored 20 in the first half.

The quarter ended terribly for Denver, as they saw their seven-point lead evaporate, finished off by a Damian Lillard four-point-play with less than five seconds left.

Portland led 80-79 heading into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter:

Denver came out firing as the final period began, starting with a 7-0 run and immediately re-taking the lead. However, the Blazers showed that basketball is a game of runs, as they immediately went on a 7-0 spurt of their own, taking back a one-point edge.

The final period continued to go back and forth, and the teams exchanged short runs. Will Barton made an impact for the Nuggets with big shots and some nice facilitation on a couple of plays.

This one went right down to the wire, as the Nuggets led by five with less than two minutes remaining. C.J. McCollum buried a big three with about a minute to go, butEmmanuel Mudiay answered right back; he nailed a clutch mid-range jumper to put the Nuggets up four with 56 seconds to go.

Portland answered back second later with two Lillard free throws, and J.J. Hickson (who struggled all night with free throws) did the same. Portland, after a missed Lillard free throw, got the ball back, leading to an Aminu layup. Mudiay nailed two free throws, and that would be all she wrote.

Final Score: Nuggets 108, Blazers 104.

Final Observations:

J.J. Hickson was absolutely terrific after his insertion to the starting lineup. He finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

Danilo Gallinari just wasn’t able to get it going all night. He finished just 2-of-10 from the field for six points, and looked very out of it at times. The Nuggets will need him to bounce back.

Gary Harris showed his terrific defensive abilities tonight. He hounded C.J. McCollum for much of the game. McCollum was never able to get into a rhythm, as he started the game shooting 1-of-8 from the field. Harris is already a lockdown defender in his sophomore year, and he should only get better.

Nikola Jokic continued to show his big potential in this one. He demonstrated soft hands, as well as some nifty post moves on his way to 10 points

Free-throw shooting was killer for the Nuggets all night long. The free ones are some of the most important, as they’re free for a reason. Hickson, in particular, was bad, as he shot 5-of-12 from the foul line, including multiple really bad misses.

Next: J.J. Hickson Isn't As Bad As You Think He Is

The Nuggets will be back in action Wednesday night, as they welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to the Pepsi Center.