The Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers came into tonight’s contest shorthanded. The Nuggets were without Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray while the Blazers were so short handed that they started five rookies. Denver got a lead in the first half but let it slip away in the third quarter before sealing the deal in the fourth despite the Blazers refusing to give up. Aaron Gordon, Reggie JAckson and Christian Braun had big nights but almost everyone chipped in to offset a balanced Portland attack. It won’t be a game they write about in the history books other than to mark it down as the 50th W of the season as the Nuggets win 114-111.

The Nuggets got an early lead leaning on the three of their usual starters. The game was ridiculously sloppy to start with Denver looking disoriented without Jokic and Murray and the Blazers showing their youth and inexperience. The Nuggets maintained a small lead as the quarter progressed. The Nuggets started to get lazy on the boards and that let Portland come back and tie it. Both teams struggled to score with the quarter progressing until Colin Gillespie started knocking down threes. That broke up what was otherwise a very difficult quarter on the scoring front. It ended with Peyton Watson getting a block but not getting the layup on the other end off in time. After one Denver led 26-22.

Gillespie continued his strong start to the game and helped lead a Nuggets run to start the second quarter. They stretched it out to double digits while the Blazers continued to struggle to score. Braun was also having a nice first half and was aggressive in looking to score. Once Denver’s starters checked back in their offense stalled out and the Blazers cut the lead back under double digits. Duop Reath did some damage and the Nuggets continued to struggle on the boards. Still, Portland couldn’t string together enough baskets to make a big run and Denver’s lead stayed right around ten. Gordon bullied his way to some more points and rebounds and secured a double-double in the first half. Portland kept struggling and at the end of the half the Nuggets led 57-47.

Michael Porter Jr. scored his first points of the game to open the third quarter but otherwise the Nuggets were listless. Portland started hitting some threes and before you knew it the lead was down to four. Portland continued to knock down the threes as the quarter progressed. The Nuggets clung to a small lead but didn’t have any consistency on offense and while the Trail Blazers got some momentum but they also struggled with consistency. The lead stayed around two to three possessions with under four minutes to go while Gordon kept playing well and got to the line. Unfortunately Denver’s sloppiness prevented them from taking control of the game with the quarter almost over. Dalano Banton(???) led a strong close for Portland and at the horn it was Denver 85, Portland 83.

The Blazers started the fourth with a bucket to tie the game but Gordon continued to have just enough of a response to keep Denver in front. It stayed tight with before Porter finally hit a three to put Denver up by five and make Portland take a timeout. The Nuggets kept the lead right around five but then stalled out and committed some sloppy turnovers. After the quarter passed the halfway mark the Nuggets started tightening the screws and went on a quick run to put the lead up to ten. Scoot Henderson banked in a three to put a stop to the Nuggets run but the Blazers were running out of time. Still, the Blazers made one last push with under two minutes to go and forced a couple of turnovers to pull back within four. They kept refusing to die and played the free throw game to get it within two with under 10 seconds to go. Ultimately though the Nuggets got enough free throws to get the job done and put it to bed. Nuggets win 114-111.

Best matchup: Reggie Jackson vs Dalano Banton

Mar 23, 2024; Portland, Oregon, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson (7) shoots the ball over Portland Trail Blazers guard Dalano Banton (5) in the third quarter at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

It was a solid battle at the point guard position tonight. Jackson once again proved to be an admirable replacement for Murray. He’s not had the best stretch run but has had his moments and tonight is another notch in his belt. Reggie should be commended for his veteran approach. He didn’t force things tonight and made the right play more often than not on his way to a twenty-three point five assist night. On the Blazers side I don’t think anyone was counting on Banton to be a big contributor but he showed why the phrase “these guys get paid too” exists. His game in the third quarter on offense was relentless and was the catalyst for the Blazers comeback. Who knows if its just a flash in the pan or a sign of things to come but a 6’8″ guard who can attack the basket like Banton did tonight has a place in the NBA.

THAT Braun is the guy the Nuggets need

Shoutout to Christian for his game tonight. He was aggressive with the ball in his hands and at times was looked to as the primary offensive threat and he delivered on that, particularly in the first half. One of the big reasons the Nuggets were so successful in the playoffs last season was Bruce Brown taking over as the playmaker and scorer for the bench unit. It felt like Christian was filling that role to a tee tonight. Obviously once Jamal is back and staggering with the bench the Nuggets won’t need as much from Braun but if he can give the type of game he gave tonight in the postseason it will make Denver that much more a lock to repeat.

Cold night from MPJ

Our thing to bet was a little silly tonight with betting on which player would make the first basket of the game. We bet MPJ but it ended up being Kris Murray who secured the first basket (congrats to anyone bold enough to bet that). Porter ended up not scoring in the first half at all in a rare off night for him during this stretch run. Even though Portland is one of the worst teams in the NBA it still goes to show how good the Nuggets are when they can be down their top two players and have their third have an off night and still find a way to win.