The Denver Nuggets decided to go with rest instead of chasing a victory tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers and almost ended up stealing a win anyways. Gary Harris and Trey Lyles had big nights for Denver but Damian Lillard and the rest of the Blazers proved to be too much in the end and got the win. Nuggets keep the Blazers hope for the three seed alive, and now put the pressure on themselves to keep the two seed. Portland gets the victory, 117-108.
Harris started off hot, knocking down a three, getting to the rim, drawing fouls and finishing in traffic. His solid start and Portland drawing a lot of iron got the Nuggets out to an early lead. Portland answered by attacking the basket themselves, a nice dish from C.J. McCollum to Mo Harkless led to an easy dunk and Portland regained the lead right at the halfway mark of quarter. Denver had gone cold while McCollum had got hot which led to a 13-0 Trail Blazers run. Trey Lyles finally stopped it with a three and then got a put back but the Blazers kept the pressure on on the other end. Lyles buried another three to get Denver back the lead. The Nuggets deep bench checked in with Jarred Vanderbilt and Isaiah Thomas making appearances and looked a bit discombobulated. Portland used that to their advantage and swung the momentum back in their favor. Denver closed the quarter strong but still trailed by four after one.
Portland opened up the second quarter sloppy but the Nuggets offense was struggling to create anything. Eventually the Blazers found their shot and pushed their advantage up. Seth Curry was doing his best impression of his brother and knocking down threes. Denver got a bucket here and there but the Blazers were slowly building their lead. The Nuggets would push back though, Juancho Hernangomez brought some energy in particular. When Denver brought their “starting” unit back in with five minutes to go in the half they were still trailing by just four. That group was sloppy, turning it over or missing layups and just like that the Blazers pushed the lead back up to eight. The Nuggets settled for jumpers while the Blazers got to the rim and the lead continued to grow. It wasn’t until there was about thirty seconds left before the Nuggets got another good look at the rim, a Morris and-one, and then Barton got a couple free throws just before the buzzer but the Nuggets still trailed by eleven.
The second half opened with a sluggish pace, neither team seemed interested in running it up the court. The result was the lead sticking right around eleven while the teams traded bricks and fouls. Lyles kept up his good play, knocking down another three and then finding Plumlee for an easy stuff. Harris got in the action with a soaring dunk and pulled the Nuggets within six. Gary continued to have a strong quarter but Lillard had found his stroke and was knocking down shots. Plumlee gave the Nuggets some great minutes. working in the paint for buckets and playing strong defense. Harris got a shot blocked by Collins but then immediately stole it back from Curry and found Morris for three which tied the game at 75. The bench checked in and got off to a rough start with a pair of turnovers. Beasley and IT knocked down a couple of threes while Lillard continued to force the issue as the quarter came to a close. All in all a strong period for Denver and they trailed by just five with one quarter to go.
Portland was careless with the basketball early in the fourth which let Denver continue to chip away at the lead. Beasley was playing well and Torrey Craig was knocking down threes. Still, the Nuggets just couldn’t quite get over the hump and take back the lead. Finally Craig got to the line and buried both free throws to recapture the lead behind a 12-4 run. That prompted coach Terry Stotts to start bringing back in his starters even though there was still over eight minutes to go in the quarter. The intensity started to pick up as the teams traded buckets with the game winding down. Lillard continued to be the catalyst for Portland but Denver continued a team effort. Plumlee found Juancho with a beautiful pass for a reverse jam and then shortly after Juancho hit a three in transition to push the lead up to five and force a Portland timeout. Denver had it up to seven when the refs fell for a horrible flop by Lillard and gave him three free throws. It ended up being what turned the game for Portland. The Nuggets went cold from the floor while the Blazers made repeated trips to the free throw line. Denver gave up an 11-1 run and had to take a timeout. It didn’t help, the Nuggets continued to miss everything and the lead grew insurmountable. Denver lets it slip away late and lose 115-108.