The Stiffs celebrated Christmas at The Celtic on Market street, the home bar of the Denver Stiffs. It was a chance for the local members of our staff to get together and catch up, something that happens far too infrequently. And since we were all together in one place, we figured we’d recap this game together, with each of us taking a quarter.
First Quarter - Adam Mares
I won’t lie. When Jusuf Nurkic opened the game with two straight post moves I thought we might be in for a NuggLife kinda night. The Bosnian Beast is averaging just 0.67 points per post up possession this season, good for the 16th percentile among all players in the NBA so when he opened with two tough post scores I took a big drink of my Michelob Light Ultra and starting furiously gnawing on my carrot sticks (I’m on a diet, give me a break).
Fortunately, it was an aberration. The Nuggets took over the next 9 minutes of the first quarter and raced out to a 25-17 lead behind some Wilson Chandler and Nikola Jokic post ups. Sadly, the first quarter showed signs of the Nuggets offense getting stuck in the mud, a recurring theme with this team. They finished the quarter up 28-22.
Second Quarter - Ryan Blackburn
My quarter started out significantly worse than Adam’s first quarter, and execution on he offensive end was the biggest reason why. With no point guard to run the team, Will Barton and Wilson Chandler were tasked with generating good looks. Unfortunately, the Nuggets only generated two points on a Mason Plumlee post up through the first four and a half minutes. The Blazers caught up and took the lead by playing scrappy, grabbing offensive rebounds.
When Jokic returned to the game, the Nuggets got going offensively again, to the extreme satisfaction of Adam as he screamed and hollered on every Jokic bucket. He began banging on the booth after Jokic showed off the athleticism, ripping past Nurkic and throwing down the most impressive uncontested dunk of his career.
Jokic finished the first half with 18 points, hitting some tough shots against Jusuf Nurkic and frankly dominated their individual matchup. The Nuggets recovered from an abysmal start to the quarter and went into halftime with a 52-41 lead.
Third Quarter - Ashley Douglas
The third quarter began with a quick offensive foul from Nurkic on Plumlee followed by Jokic spinning right past Nurkic for a quick two points. Jokic seemed to come alive against Nurkic for the first time in a long time, and his aggressiveness paid off for the Nuggets. Denver did work in the post and Jokic scored from distance putting the Nuggets up by almost 20 points with just over 6 minutes to go in the quarter.
Portland began to look desperate, and a rejection by Plumlee followed by a Gallo-esque trick shot solidified the shift in momentum toward Denver (even though Plumlee was called for a travel and the shot was no good).
Plumlee protected the rim, and was aggressive on scoring for the remainder of the quarter, and the Nuggets finished ahead by 14 points led by Jokic with 25 points, and Chandler with 18.
Fourth Quarter - Daniel Lewis
The Trail Blazers reserves helped get their team back in the game to start the fourth, taking advantage of some Nuggets turnovers to help close the gap. Wilson Chandler helped stop the run with a nice post move while drawing a foul and knocking down the freebie.
Trey Lyles had a good stretch to help power a Nuggets run to stretch the lead back to 21 with 6:30 remaining. As the Trail Blazers continued to miss shots, the Nuggets continued to roll on offense to put the game out of reach.
The Nuggets lit up Nurkic like Clark Griswold’s Christmas lights display, continuing to seek him out in their halfcourt sets. It was just one of those nights where the Nuggets talent was better than the Trail Blazers talent. Portland doesn’t have a player that can carry the team if Damian Lillard is out and CJ McCollum isn’t feeling it. The Nuggets had Jokic, and tonight, that was enough.
Final score: 102-85
Nikola Jokic: 27 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, +29
Wilson Chandler: 21 points, 11 rebounds
Gary Harris: 17 points, 3 steals
Mason Plumlee: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks