If Game 1 is any indication, the Blazers-Nuggets series is going to be an intense, entertaining, and long series.
The Nuggets were the aggressors early. Denver pulled down six offensive rebounds in the first six minutes and just when Nikola Jokic extended the Nuggets lead, the Blazers bench came in and changed the game.
Thanks to Anfernee Simons and Carmelo Anthony’s hot three-point shooting, they helped give the Blazers a 35-30 first-quarter lead.
Melo notched 12 points in his first five minutes of action.
While the Nuggets relied on their rebounding, the Blazers relied on their three-point shooting.
Denver took a 61-58 lead at halftime.
But after the Nuggets extended their lead early in the third quarter, they gave Lillard too much space and he made them pay as the Blazers took Game 1, 123-09.
Denver had nine offensive rebounds good for 15-second chance points in the first half.
The Blazers backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 24 points in the first half. Lillard notched 14 points in the third to help the Blazers take a 96-86 lead at the end of the quarter, which was their biggest lead at the time.
The Blazers bench finished with 34 points led by Melo’s 18.
The Nuggets were without Will Barton (right hamstring; strain), PJ Dozier (right adductor; strain) and Jamal Murray (left ACL; surgery).
Lillard was on the attack from the jump and thanks to his aggressive play taking it to the rim, he forced the Nuggets to pick up quick fouls.
After Anfernee Simons checked in for the first time Saturday night, he quickly hit a needed three, while Carmelo Anthony drained back-to-back threes near the end of the first quarter. The two provided instant offense. Simons confidently kept the threes coming in the second half. He finished with 14 points.
Melo was unstoppable from three. The former Nugget rose to the occasion as Nuggets fans booed the future Hall of Famer. After hitting his first three threes, Anthony had 12 points in the first quarter. Anthony was also very active on the other end.
When the Nuggets put so much attention on Lillard and McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic took advantage. The big man was extremely aggressive at both ends. Nurkic also showed off his playoff enthusiasm with a couple of rim rockin' jams.
Case in point:
Nurkic finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
The Blazers ball movement was on point in big thanks to Damian Lillard. In the first quarter, the Blazers had 10 assists on 12 made field goals. Lillard had seven of those assists. After getting his teammates involved, Lillard continued to get his own shots. Lillard finished with 34 points and 13 assists.
It seemed to take the Trail Blazers a few minutes to adjust to the altitude. Portland got off to a slow start on both ends, while Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr., and Aaron Gordon flexed their length in the paint on the smaller Blazer defenders.
Even though Jokic notched 22 points in the first half on a variety of shots, the Blazers did limit his playmaking. The Nuggets big man had zero assists in the first half. Jokic finished with 34 points, 16 rebounds, and just one assist.
It was Michael Porter Jr., who helped Denver claw back in the final period with Jokic on the bench. The Nuggets went on a 8-0 run early in the quarter.
Denver dominated on the glass from start to finish. The Nuggets notched 48 rebounds for the game including 11 offensive boards, which, of course, will be something to keep an eye on throughout the series.
Jusuf Nurkic quieted the Nuggets crowd in the first half:
Denver out-rebounded Portland in the first half, 29-16.
Next up: Game 2 will tip-off Monday in Denver at 7:00p.m. PT on NBCSNW.