The talk prior to Monday night's Trail Blazer matchup with Denver was whether it would be a revenge game for Jusuf Nurkic. The Portland center, a former Nugget, insisted it was not.
After watching the way the game played out, I'm certain Nurkic took great pleasure in the outcome of the contest and the way he dominated Denver center Nikola Jokic. But what happened Monday night -- the 99-82 Trail Blazer win -- had a lot more to do with Nurkic's knowledge of Jokic from all those practice sessions when they were teammates, than it did with simple revenge.
Nurkic manhandled Jokic. And it seemed as if he knew exactly what he was doing -- just as he did last season in their meeting. And what he was doing was being physical with his former teammate. He made it a rough night, which Jokic didn't seem to like. Jokic went 2-for-9 from the field and scored six points on the same day he was named the Western Conference's player of the week. Jokic finished the game lurking around the three-point line, looking like a man who had lost his way.
Nurkic's dominance was the story of the night. The Nuggets' best player and a rising star in the NBA was taken completely out of the game. That was enough for not many to notice that Nurkic finished with a whopping seven of his team's 22 turnovers. I have no idea why Portland is suddenly experiencing an uptick in turnovers. It's certainly not because the team is forcing the ball upcourt on fastbreaks -- since the Blazers are at the bottom of the league in that department.
Since Coach Terry Stotts has been here, there's never been much attention paid to fastbreaks, partly, I'm sure, to keep the turnovers down. Bu,t if you're going to turn the ball over anyway, you may as well try to run a little more. I would think. Those easy baskets off the break can perk a team up and can wake up an offense.
But it wasn't an issue Monday. Nurkic took care of that.