It really felt like a preseason game for the Trail Blazers Wednesday.
And it was the opposite for the Nuggets in Denver’s 126-95 blowout victory over Portland.
The Blazers struggled to defend the Nuggets on the break and in the halfcourt, especially early on. Denver totaled 14 assists in the first quarter to take a 41-24 lead after starting out the game with a quick 10-2 lead.
The Nuggets put on a show in the first half with plenty of highlight-worthy dunks and three-pointers. Denver’s hot shooting continued into the second half and once the Nuggets took a 24-point lead early in the third quarter, Denver never looked back. Wednesday's game proved that there is still plenty for the Blazers to figure out with their new defensive schemes. Portland gave up way too many open threes, which has been a consistent problem in recent years.
Robert Covington was a bright spot Wednesday.
Covington was cooking early on offense. He found his groove and led all scorers to start the third quarter with 13 points. Covington was also one of the few Blazers players with active hands and success on the defensive end. He brought the energy when it looked like the rest of the team’s energy wasn’t there Wednesday night.
The Blazers proved that they still have a long way to go to get on the same page defensively, particularly Portland’s second unit, who allowed the Nuggets to get going out on the fastbreak and gave up plenty of wide open threes.
The Blazers were also still without Anfernee Simons, who suffered a hamstring injury in Portland’s win over Sacramento last Friday. Simons sat out his second-straight game with what Coach Terry Stotts has called a “sore hamstring.” Before Wednesday’s game Stotts said that Simons was progressing, but there was no timeline for his return.
The Damian Lillard steal that led to a Lillard three was one of the big positives early.
Denver was shooting lights out from deep especially early. The Nuggets finished the game shooting 41.3 percent from three.
“It’s a lot different,” Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said about the differences in traveling during the pandemic before Wednesday’s game tipped off. “We have four buses instead of two because we need to have space on the bus. In Colorado there are no gatherings so we couldn’t have a team meeting or a team breakfast or anything at the hotel. Obviously, when you’re on the road you go out to eat, so we’re limited with those options. Just from a routine that you usually have on the road that’s been broken up a little bit.”
Next up: The Trail Blazers will square off against the Denver Nuggets in Portland’s fourth and final exhibition game Friday at 6:00p.m. PST on NBCSNW.