The NW Division rivals battled it out until the final ticks on the clock Tuesday night.
Between Damian Lillard and Enes Kanter’s two-man game or Gary Trent Jr.’s three-point shot showing up in Denver, the Blazers started off strong.
But so did Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.
Denver took a 34-25 lead at the end of the first quarter behind Jokic’s 11.
Yet with Portland’s strategy seemingly allowing Jokic to get his and nobody else in the early going, it nearly worked.
It worked until Jamal Murray finally got going in crunch time after battling through shoulder pain. The Nuggets guard scored 18 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets defeated the Blazers 111-106 in the second night of back-to-back for Portland.
In the second quarter, though, it was all about Carmelo Anthony.
Melo scored 13 of Portland’s first 16 points in the second quarter. His scoring tear also meant more rest for Lillard on the bench. With the vintage Melo second quarter, Portland clawed its way back.
The game was all tied up at 57 at the break.
The altitude didn’t seem to bother the Blazers early.
As a team, Portland shot 51.2 percent from the field in the first half including 40.0 percent from deep led by Trent Jr. and Anthony.
Portland was once again without Harry Giles (left calf strain), CJ McCollum (left midfoot fracture), Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture) and Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture).
Denver, who is also dealing with several injuries, did not have PJ Dozier (right hamstring; strain), JaMychal Green (left shoulder; sprain), Gary Harris (left adductor; strain), or Paul Millsap (left knee; sprain) Tuesday night.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the game was all tied up once again, this time at 78.
But when the Blazers ran out of gas late, it was the Murray and Jokic show in Denver.
Gary Trent Jr. didn’t allow his poor shooting night Monday to carry over to Tuesday. Trent Jr. started out hot from behind the arc and mixed up his offense in the second half.
When Lillard’s shot wasn’t falling or the Nuggets sent two defenders at him, he found his teammates and found success. The Trail Blazers point guard notched 10 assists just under four minutes into the third quarter.
Derrick Jones Jr. and Kanter were big beneficiaries of Lillard’s dimes.
And when Lillard went to the bench in the second quarter, Carmelo Anthony took over. Melo scored 16 points in the quarter. He showed off his vintage isolation game and any mismatch he could get, Melo went to his best bully-ball move. He was also hitting from three.
Melo kept the Blazers in the game in the first half.
At the other end, it was Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr.’s defensive energy that helped Portland take a lead midway through the third quarter.
Jones Jr. was all over the court.
He also worked the baseline once again on the offensive end. As a slasher and lengthy defender, he has brought a different dimension to Portland’s roster.
Denver played through Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic whenever he was on the floor and rightfully so especially against an undermanned Blazers team. Jockic, who is averaging 26.6 points on 56.4 percent shooting, notched 23 points in the first half.
The Nuggets center took Enes Kanter out to the three-point line and made a living in the midrange.
Kanter wasn’t giving up the lane to the basket, but he gave Jokic too much space on the perimeter. The three-time Nuggets All-Star finished with 41 points and five rebounds.
After three quarters, the Nuggets only had two players in double digits. Jokic had notched 35 points and Michael Porter Jr. had 12.
But in the final period, Jamal Murray found his stroke.
On national television, it was Vintage Melo in the second quarter:
Denver only committed one turnover to Portland’s nine.
Next up: The Trail Blazers will wrap-up their current three-game road trip with a matchup against the Lakers Friday. Portland and Los Angeles are scheduled to tip-off at 7:00p.m. PST on NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.