In some respects, the Nuggets were on thin ice all night. An early lead wasn’t safe. A second-quarter rally was short-lived. A third-quarter blitz by the Portland Trail Blazers proved to be the knockout blow.
The Nuggets lost at the Moda Center on Monday night, 99-82 to the Portland Trail Blazers in a game that snapped a three-game win streak and extended a losing skid in this city that is now up to nine straight games.
And while Portland stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum both did have productive nights, the Nuggets inability to solve the Blazers’ defense was the main issue. Denver was held to just 35.7 percent from the field, even as they outshot the Blazers 84-73. The 3-point line wasn’t kind to the Nuggets either, as they made just 9-of-32 shots from the arc.
Yet, through all of that, the third quarter began with the Nuggets down just five (54-49). But then these two things happened:
First, the Blazers shot 12-of-19 in the third.
Second, the Nuggets shot 5-of-22 in the third.
The result was a period in which Portland outscored the Nuggets 30-17, led by 18 going into the fourth, and did what it needed to do to maintain that advantage and close the game out. Portland’s middle pick-and-roll was effective for them most of the night, getting them open midrange shots and layups, and the Nuggets struggled to finish at the rim as well.
Denver played without starting shooting guard Gary Harris. He missed his second straight game due to a sore right shoulder.
The Nuggets were led by Paul Millsap’s 18 points. Jamal Murray also finished with 18 points and five rebounds. Wilson Chandler scored 14 points, had seven rebounds and six assists in the contest. Will Barton had 12 points, and Nikola Jokic had a tough night, scoring just six points with seven rebounds and three assists.
Portland was led by 17 points apiece from McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.
The Nuggets get three days off before returning home on Friday night for a game against New Orleans.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.