Blazers crumble in Denver, drop third straight

by Kevin Nesgoda


Derrick Jones Jr. was one of the few bright spots for the Blazers in Tuesday’s loss at Denver.  (Photo used with permission by Trail Blazers)

Derrick Jones Jr. was one of the few bright spots for the Blazers in Tuesday’s loss at Denver. (Photo used with permission by Trail Blazers)


COMPLETE BOX SCORE

I think we can all agree, Monday’s loss in Phoenix was embarrassing. And I’ll be completely honest … I thought a similar result was coming tonight as the Trail Blazers took on the Nuggets in Denver for the second half of a back-to-back.

But instead, it was a more painful kind of loss … a winnable game that got away thanks to poor shooting and defense of the absolute worst caliber down the stretch. Portland takes a 111-106 loss – its second straight – and will head to Los Angeles for a Friday night national TV game against the reeling Lakers, who have a three-game losing streak of their own.

For now, let’s break this one down. 


FIRST HALF

Portland (18-13) was sloppy, and I expected it. The Blazers looked tired midway through the first but a strong offensive start by *gulp* Enes Kanter (4-of-4 shooting) kept Portland close. Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic (game-high 41 points) had big opening periods to push Denver (17-14) in front by a 34-25 count.

In the second, with Damian Lillard on the bench and the rest of the team struggling offensively, Carmelo Anthony took over, dropping 19 points in 16 minutes on 7-of-10 shooting. He took it to the rim for a jam and hit turnaround jumpers over outstretched defenders. It was 2005 in 2021. It was glorious. More importantly, it erased a 12-point Denver lead.

Derrick Jones Jr. and Gary Trent Jr. (what’s up with all the frickin’ juniors in this game) joined Kanter in double figures, putting Portland in a 57-57 tie at the break. Jokic had 23 at halftime and was the only consistent threat for Denver.


SECOND HALF

In the quarter where Portland usually falls apart (the third), the Blazers were actually efficient, with no thanks to Rodney Hood or Anfernee Simons, each of whom continue taking advantage of their extra minutes with god awful shot selection and terrible overall play. They’ve got that mentality of a player who does what he wants because he knows the coach can’t afford to bench him. When they’re in the game I just want to throw things at the TV. Now back to the game … 

Portland is able to keep it close with nobody but Jokic clicking for the Nuggets. Unfortunately, in the fourth, he finally got help in the form of Jamal Murray, who scored 19 of his 24 in the final frame. 

Dame led the Blazers with 25 while Melo added 24. Kanter had 16 points to go with 14 boards but was systematically broken down defensively by Jokic on possession after possession. It was a pitiful sight.

That boost from Murray helped Denver pull within a game of both Portland and idle San Antonio, who are now tied for fifth in the West. Portland has two days off before taking on a reeling Lakers team Friday night at the Staples Center. Game time is 7:00 pm. 


BONUS POINTS

Aside from Melo in the first half, I was pretty pleased with the play of DJJ in this one. He finished with a season-high 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, pulled down five rebounds and blocked three shots. Solid all-around effort on a night when the rest of the team was below average.

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