Game 2 between the Blazers and Nuggets went a little bit different compared to Game 1.
There was an altercation between Jusuf Nurkic and Michael Porter Jr., which led to both teams going jawing at mid-court and Blazers assistant coach Nate Tibbetts receiving a technical foul.
“It was chippy, and that’s the way it should be,” Nuggets HC Michael Malone said. “We’re both fighting for something and that's the way the playoffs should be. I loved it. That’s my kind of game.”
The other testy moment of the game didn’t involve any words being shared but featured Carmelo Anthony receiving a flagrant one foul for pushing Nikola Jokic to the ground.
Both of the moments happened in the first quarter, and in total there were four technical fouls, two flagrant fouls and 52 fouls.
“We like it,” Jokic added of the increased intensity. “I think when they started picking up the aggressiveness, we did it too. We kinda meet their aggressiveness, maybe a little bit higher, but we were still controlling it.”
Malone applauded Jokic for not overreacting to Anthony’s shove, as the coach noted he’s matured over their time together. Jokic, who had the second most technicals of his career during the regular-season, agreed with his coach and realizes his importance to the team.
“They have the toughest job,” Jokic said on the refs. “They make a good call, bad call someone’s going to yell at them. I don’t know how anyone wants to become a ref, to be honest. I’m trying to do my best and try to keep my calmness to help my team win the game. I think I’m doing a good job especially this year, even last year I was doing a good job.”
Denver came out and looked like a composed team in comparison to the series-opener, and it started with the best player and coach, and in Malone’s eyes, his team out-hustled Portland.
Malone ended his post-game presser by going out of his way to mention Denver outscored Portland 54-32 in the paint; won the second chance points category 19-4; and had more fast-break points, 16-4.
It’s not too often a coach will go out of their way to make a point known to the media, but with the way Denver played, Malone felt it was warranted.
“Which are all hustle, energy, and passion type of stats,” Malone said on the categories Denver won. “This was a great win for us, and as I mentioned, we’ll have to be even better on the road to try and get game three.”
Aaron Gordon, who held Damian Lillard to nine points on 2-for-4 shooting, echoed his coach and enjoyed the chippiness.
“We’re not backing down,” said Gordon. “I don’t know what they were trying to do on that side.”
And as it turns out, neither are the Blazers.
“We ain’t got no suckas on our roster,” CJ McCollum said. “And we not really going for a lot of stuff. I think they have a lot of players who play hard and do a lot of those same things. So, I enjoy it. I don’t mind it. It’s just part of the playoffs.”
In a game in which the benches of both teams became the story, Norman Powell didn't appreciate the Nuggets reserves constant chirping.
"Their bench was talking all night, and we are a team that are no punks," Powell said. "We are not going to back down to anybody."
Powell did concede Denver was the more physical on that night in particular.
Monte Morris thinks the increased exchange in Game 2 simply comes from both teams having played each other so much in the last three seasons.
“You get tired of seeing a team as much as we see Portland,” said Morris. “Them engaging with us, I’m sure we upped their mentality to be tougher. I think tonight we won the battle as far as toughness.”
Denver looked like a re-energized team on that night and will need to replicate their performance in Game 3 and 4 in Portland.
Neither team is willing to backdown to the other and it's exactly what both players and coaching staffs want. Toughness and grit from their guys, and showing a will to win.
That's what playoff basketball is and a simplification of who want its more.