The Denver Nuggets came off a loss on their first game of their road trip and were looking to bounce back against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was missing Donovan Mitchell. Unfortunately, Cleveland got Nikola Jokic into foul trouble early and built a lead in the second and third quarter that was too much for Denver to overcome. Big performances from Darius Garland, Jarret Allen and Craig Porter Jr. (???) proved to be Denver’s undoing and they lose their fourth straight on the road, 121-109.

Neither team gained much separation at the beginning of the quarter with Jokic and Porter offsetting the efforts of Evan Mobley and Garland. There wasn’t a ton of defense to go around as both team shot very well to open. Max Strus started getting into the action for Cleveland (the Nuggets for some reason didn’t see much need to defend him) while Michael Porter Jr. kept things going on Denver’s side. After a Strus three put Cleveland up by seven Michael Malone took a timeout. Denver responded with six straight points behind defense that created transition opportunities. Unfortunately, Craig Porter Jr. stopped the run with an and-1 opportunity that was also Jokic’s second foul and forced him to the bench. A change in the rotation of note, Justin Holiday came into the game in Peyton Watson’s normal slot. Denver closed with a bench plus Jackson unit and while they didn’t get a ton of points they did slow down Cleveland’s scoring and keep the Nuggets within two points after one quarter.

Cleveland knocked down a couple threes to open the second quarter to put their lead back to seven while Denver continued to struggle on offense in their non-Jokic minutes. Cleveland quickly got the lead to double digits and forced a Denver timeout. Jokic came back in after that along with the rest of the starting unit. They looked a bit sluggish but started to get the Cavs to miss some shots as they chipped away at the lead. Jokic and Porter were the constant force of the first half and that was true as Denver mounted their comeback. Gordon slammed home a Jokic assist to bring Nuggets within two points and it was Cleveland’s turn to take a timeout. They got things back together but found themselves in a back and forth battle. Julian Strawther knocked down a three to tie it at 51 with just over four minutes to play. Cleveland answered while Denver went cold from the field. Jokic picked up his third foul and had to go to the bench in the final minutes of the half. Garland sunk a three right before half and Denver trailed 66-58.

Denver was once again cold from the floor to open the second half which let Cleveland grow their lead. The Nuggets went three minutes without a field goal and Malone called a timeout with Cleveland suddenly up by fifteen. It didn’t help much and Jokic picked up his fourth foul shortly thereafter. He let himself get frustrated and doubled down on the issue by quickly picked up his fifth foul after that. It was starting to look like the Nuggets were in danger of getting blown out. Halfway through the quarter Cleveland pushed the lead up to twenty. MPJ knocked down a couple shots and the defense got better to get the momentum on Denver’s side a little bit. They started chipping away at the lead. The Nuggets got it down to a dozen but a strong close by the Cavs to the quarter had Denver trailing 92-75 after three.

Jokic was back in to start the fourth despite the five fouls. Denver stopped the bleeding somewhat but they struggled to convert on their end. The lead continued to stay around twenty. Porter Jr. (Cleveland’s Porter Jr.) continued to have a great night as well. The Nuggets tried to stay competitive but it was quickly becoming apparent they didn’t have it. They trailed by twenty-two with six minutes to go and Malone went to the bench. They didn’t let Cleveland’s lead grow but there wasn’t any miraculous comeback in the cards. The deep bench unit would give Denver the best minutes they got all night but ultimately they didn’t have enough time. Denver loses their second game in a row on the road trip, 121-109.