Wednesday night marked the start of what could be an incredibly special season for the Nuggets and they did not disappoint. Not everything went according to plan, but Denver found a way to pick up a big time road victory in a game where Nikola Jokic came to life in the second half.
Things did not start in the Nuggets favor as Jokic picked up three early fouls, which put him on the bench for the remainder of the first quarter. Jokic picked up his third foul with 8:15 left in the first quarter as he closed the first half with just three rebounds and zero points in four minutes of action.
Even with Jokic out, the Nuggets found a way to battle through the first half. Denver trailed 27-24 after one quarter of play as the Nuggets shot just 2-of-17 from two-point range in the opening period. The Nuggets overcame that by going 6-of-10 from three-point range as Gary Harris and Malik Beasley each had six points after 12 minutes of action.
Denver’s shooting improved in the second quarter as the Nuggets went into halftime with a 54-50 lead. At the break, Paul Millsap led the way with eight points, while Will Barton and Jamal Murray each chipped in seven points a piece.
Jokic was finally back for Denver to start the third quarter, but it was Barton who provided a spark. Barton drilled two threes in the opening minutes of the period as he was the first Nuggets player in double-figures.
Will.. THE THRILL!— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) October 24, 2019
Hot in the third! pic.twitter.com/hjbWlt6L5r
It was not just Barton that was having success from three-point land as Denver had five different players — Millsap, Murray, Beasley, and Torrey Craig — who had at least two threes after three quarters. The Nuggets were 13-of-24 from three through three quarters, but Portland still found a way to cut into Denver’s lead.
The Nuggets scored just 19 points in the third quarter as Portland took a 74-73 lead into the final 12 minutes of regulation. It was back and fourth to start the fourth quarter, but the Nuggets finally tied the game when Murray drilled a three with just over eight minutes remaining. Just one possession later, Jokic hit a mid-range jumper to give Denver a 85-83 lead with 7:52 left in the game.
Fast forward to the three minute mark and Jokic had officially taken over the game. After back-to-back threes by Jokic, the Nuggets were suddenly up by seven points and in the drivers seat to steal a victory in Portland. Jokic scored 16 points and collected 10 rebounds in the second half alone to help lead the Nuggets to a 108-100 victory over Portland.
Jokic led the Nuggets in scoring with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, 3-of-5 from three-point range. In just 25 minutes of action, Jokic hauled in 13 rebounds as he recorded his first double-double of the season. Barton (19), Murray (14), Millsap (11), and Craig (10) also finished in double-figures, while Jerami Grant posted a solid stat line in his Nuggets debut with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field to go along with two three-pointers.
The Nuggets will have an off day tomorrow before they suit up Friday night against the Phoenix Suns. Friday night will be Denver’s home opener with tip-off set at 7pm MDT. If you can not make it out to the Pepsi Center, KTVD (channel 20) will be televising the game.