Will Barton did not play tonight. The Nuggets were down their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best players. Yet they kicked the Blazers teeth in; who in fairness were missing Dame, but they would’ve won this game either way. Nikola Jokic had a masterclass, Bones Hyland had his best game as a pro, and the bench wasn’t abysmal! In fact the team as a whole had their best offensive game of their season; having the highest scoring game of the season, and shooting 47.5% from 3. Just a great game and immaculate vibes. Oh, they also got the Munder.
At first, I thought I had turned on D3 NCAA basketball by accident. The two teams started the game a combined 5/20 from the field before either team called timeout, and it was not a pretty sight. Aaron Gordon in particular was struggling; hitting only 1 of his first 5 attempts, all of which came at the rim. It also didn’t help that Will Barton didn’t start this game to back stiffness — so the starters were lacking in some of their normal explosiveness. You could say they were playing quite stiff... I’ll see myself out. The defense was still great though, holding Portland to 1/8 shooting to start the game.
Out of the timeout, there was one Nugget playing well to start the game and that was Monte Morris. He hit 3 of his first 4 shots for 7 points. The shooting struggles continued for both teams, but eventually Aaron Gordon had an and-one that he converted the free throw on. Then Joker found Austin Rivers on a wide open layup. At this point, everyone besides Joker and AG was subbed out for Bones, Jamychal, and PJ. It was here we saw Jamychal Green hit a 3 — a rare but welcome sight this season. It was assisted by Joker; who at this point had 7 (yes, SEVEN) assists! Then Joker got an and-one when the Blazers decided it’d be a good idea to play him with single coverage with Cody Zeller. He sank the free throw and put the Nuggets up 24-8. After a couple of baskets from the Blazers, Joker and AG sat; making room for Facu and Zeke Nnaji to sub in at 24-12.
At that point I was prepared for another lead to be blown, and another cup of coffee to be needed to get through this game. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the bench started actually shooting pretty well. Bones started it off with a pull up 3, then diming up Facu Campazzo for a corner 3. PJ Dozier didn’t want to be left out and hit a 3 himself. So overall, at the end of the quarter the Nuggets bench actually extended a lead for once and the quarter ended with a score of 33-18.
The same all bench lineup started the quarter. Zeke Nnaji got fouled but missed both his free throws, and then the Blazers hit a 3. However, Bones kept up his fantastic play in this game and hit a floater in traffic. The Blazers took a trip to the line where they only got one to fall, and Campazzo honestly impressed me up to this point in the game. As much crap as I give him at times, I have to give him his roses — he had played well up to a couple minutes into the second quarter; hitting a shifty layup at the rim and playing solid defense on CJ McCollum. The defense still kept up, holding the Blazers to 9/27 shooting from the floor and 3/13 from the 3 point line on top of the Nuggets curing their own shooting woes from earlier. Malone called a timeout after a Nassir Little 3 pointer with the score at 37-25.
The show went on with the only sub being AG for Zeke, and the ball kept on rolling. Bones hit another 3, AG got a putback, and Facu continued to impress hitting a pull up 3 of his own. Then the two guards linked up on Facu to Bones dime in the corner which left Bones wide open in the corner for his potential third 3 pointer of the night — bottoms. Portland timeout; Bones Hyland is undeniable, pure, joy. He was sending the Blazers straight into the graveyard.
After the Portland timeout the score was 48-32 and life was good.
Now, I hear you asking life continued to be good right?
Damn straight it did. The bench contributed another bucket or two and the starters were back in. Monte Morris and Nikola Jokic were just pure basketball serotonin for the rest of the corner. They cooked and cooked. Despite the Blazers starting to pour in points of their own; the Nuggets just kept ahead and to top it off, we got a beautiful Joker rainbow 3 pointer. ‘Tis the season. The Nuggets went into half up 14; 67-53.
The third quarter started out with another 3 from Big Honey. CJ McCollum responded with one of his own, but Joker just went back and hit a hook shot on the other end. He was getting whatever he wanted at this point. Aaron Gordon and Monte Morris each pitched in 2 pointers, and forced the Blazers into an early timeout. The Nuggets had come out swinging and put themselves up by 18 points, 76-58 just 3 minutes into the half. After a couple minutes and buckets being traded after the timeout, Denver called a timeout of their own with the lead being cut down to 14 with a score of 77-63.
Out of the timeout, Jokic joined Bones as the leader on 3 pointers on the night when he hit his third of the night. However, the Blazers started getting more shots to fall than the Nuggets. Joker hit another jump hook thing that he does, but not many other points were scored. Malone called another timeout before it got too bad, but the starters didn’t play up to their standards letting the lead fall to 12. 84-72.
Joker continued to dominate, and made a 7 foot man known as Cody Zeller look like a little brother. He was just dominate — there’s just no other words for what he was tonight. At about the minute and a half mark of the quarter, he came out with the score at 88-77, Nuggets still up. He had 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists on 11/17 shooting from the field, 3/3 from 3, and 3/3 from the free throw line and that’s actually what he’d finish with. Just exquisite. Bones got an assist on a PJ Dozier 3 pointer, and that was that for the third frame of the game. Nuggets closed out up 12 at 91-79.
Bones continued wheeling and dealing dishing out his third assist of the night to Jamychal Green on a catch and shoot midrange shot. PJ Dozier didn’t want to be left out and gave Green an assist too. Bones then got a steal which lead to yet another PJ Dozier 3 pointer courtesy of Facu Campazzo. The four of them were just great tonight and they continued to extend the lead to 19; 98-79. Portland called a timeout just 2 minutes into the quarter.
Malone kept the bench in and they kept dealing. PJ continued to feed Jamychal with a great dime leading to a dunk. Bones hit his fourth 3 of the night and PJ hit his fourth as well off another Facu pass. Then to top off this wonderful stint Jamychal Green hit his second of the night; only the second time he’s hit multiple 3s in a game this season. They extended the lead to 26 and forced Portland into yet another timeout. Your Nuggets lead 109-83.
At that point, the game was done in all but formality. Malone’s victory cigar Bol Bol checked in. People started hitting 3s; Facu and Zeke among them. Bones got to the line a couple of times and got up to the teams second highest mark of 18 points. Really that’s all that happened. Nuggets win 124-95. They got the Munder.