The Michael Porter Jr. era in Denver got off to a fine start on Tuesday night as the Nuggets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in their first preseason game 105-94.
Porter didn’t check in until there was 4:30 left in the third quarter but once he came in he stayed in the rest of the game. If there were any questions as to whether or not he would make an impact, those were answered when he immediately drained his first shot, a long two with beautiful arc and a silky smooth touch.
Michael Porter Jr first points as a Nugget pic.twitter.com/HFCtbSyuIE— NBA RETWEET (@RTNBA) October 9, 2019
For the most part, however, Porter looked like a rookie playing a real basketball game for the first time in two years. In 16 minutes, Porter put up 9 points and grabbed three boards along the way. The intangibles will come. Life is good.
Without Nikola Jokic in the lineup the starting unit looked predictably average in terms of offensive flow. Michael Malone said that Paul Millsap had a “terrific” training camp and based on what we saw in his 20 minutes tonight Malone was right: Millsap finished with 14 points, 2-2 from deep, five rebounds, two steals and a block while anchoring the defense.
Perhaps the most impressive Nugget though was Jerami Grant. In his Denver debut Grant was monster on both ends of the floor and seemed to fit in as seamlessly as fans had hoped. He brought huge energy off the bench and like a revelation was 3-5 from three. If one thing is clear it’s that Grant’s versatility will enable Malone to deploy him in both big and small lineups and that he’ll be able to produce regardless.
At the guard spot Monte Morris looked great leading the bench unit and with his added muscle this offseason was able to shoulder some tough shots in the paint. Jamal Murray was a mixed bag - he looked solid on defense (even as Rodney Hood tried to post him up right off the bat) and finished with 10 points, but got caught on some passes that led to a few awful turnovers.
Overall, not a bad night at all for the Nuggets. The main takeaway is this: the team that played tonight showed flashes of being really good. Throw Nikola Jokic into the mix and the Nuggets are going to be a problem.