Before tip-off, it seemed Thursday’s game was a lock for Portland since Denver was not only playing in a second night of a back-to-back, but the Nuggets were also short-handed.
Denver was without Troy Daniels (right hip; tightness), Jamal Murray (left hamstring; tightness), Will Barton (right knee; soreness), Vlatko Cancar (left foot; fracture), Gary Harris (right hip; muscle strain) and Paul Millsap (rest).
The Nuggets beat San Antonio Wednesday afternoon, 132-126 behind Michael Porter Jr.'s 30 points and 15 rebounds.
Porter Jr. picked up where he left off against the Blazers. But despite Portland's slow start, minus Damian Lillard, the Blazers took the 27-26 lead after one quarter.
Lillard took advantage of the Nuggets backcourt out with injuries.
In the Damian Lillard show early, the Blazers five-time All-Star dropped 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-5 from deep, while Porter Jr. had a quick 10 points in the first 12 minutes of action.
Portland had all the momentum going into the break. The Blazers had continued contributions from Lillard as Gary Trent Jr. and Jusuf Nurkic also got in on the action with pull-up jumpers, dunks, and more dunks. The Blazers took a 62-49 lead at halftime.
The Nuggets didn't back down though. Portland struggled to get a stop in the second half.
Denver outscored Portland, 38-30 in the third quarter to stick around for the final period.
Whether Nuggets big man Mason Plumlee was rolling to the hoop and finishing at the rim or having success on the glass, Plumlee along with Porter Jr. were two big reasons why the Blazers weren’t able to rest their starters in the fourth quarter.
The Trail Blazers knocked down 23 three pointers, a franchise-high. Damian Lillard connected on 11 three pointers. Gary Trent, Jr. went 7-10 from beyond the arc.
Here are three quick takeaways from Portland's fourth seeding game from our NBC Sports NW team:
Dwight Jaynes, Insider:
It was all Dame all the time. With a little help from Trent.
Blazer bench with a 19-9 advantage, thanks to Gary Trent’s 15 points— Dwight Jaynes (@dwightjaynes) August 7, 2020
All Trent has done is go 6-6 from the field, including 3-3 from three-point range.— Dwight Jaynes (@dwightjaynes) August 7, 2020
Jamie Hudson, Reporter
Remember when people were talking about how the Blazers’ were struggling to score in the scrimmages games. Yeah, that was silly if people were concerned about this Blazers squad scoring. They’ve got plenty of options and with Damian Lillard starting off the game with 14 points in the first 12 minutes that set the tone offensively for the entire game.
ALSO: Is there anything that Gary Trent Jr. can’t do?
Between Jusuf Nurkic’s tomahawk dunks (and so many dunks in general) along with Trent Jr.’s pesky defense and threes, and then throw in Lillard’s shooting clinic, you would've thought this would've been a blowout win for Portland; credit the young Nuggets for keeping it close.
Mike Richman, Reporter
The Nuggets were already shorthanded coming in, and decided to rest most of their starters down the stretch, yet the Trail Blazers couldn't fully pull away until the final three minutes. It would have been a major missed opportunity. Instead, we'll probably remember this as a night the Blazers made a kajillion three-pointers and Jusuf Nurkic dunked a lot.
Nurk is dunking everything, Dame has six 3s and still it feels like Gary Trent Jr. was the most important part of the Blazers first half.— Mike Richman (@mikegrich) August 7, 2020
[You can listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast here with special guest Bill Walton]:
Up Next: The Trail Blazers take on the LA Clippers Saturday at 10:00a.m. in Portland’s first leg of a back-to-back this weekend. Catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest and stream the game on the MyTeams app.
Also, be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!