For the second straight game, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone didn’t feel his starters were ready for game action.
But unlike Game 3, when the Nuggets shot an impressive 20-of-38 from distance to outlast the Blazers 120-115 and take a 2-1 series lead, Denver’s starting squad was the difference-maker on Saturday night, and not in the way Malone had hoped.
After tying up the game at 36-all in the second quarter, Portland went on a 33-11 run to build up a 22-point lead over Denver, all with Malone’s starting roster on the court. Ultimately, the Blazers came away with the blowout 115-95 win to even the series at two games apiece.
Malone didn’t sugarcoat how he felt about his team’s dismal performance.
“Tonight, our starters were awful,” Malone said. “I thought we had some guys that were tentative that looked a little scared, that we played soft, and we have to be lot better going home. It’s definitely disappointing.”
Disappointing is right. Jokic, who had been averaging 36.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists heading into Game 4, was held to just 7-of-18 shooting, coming away with 16 points while adding 9 rebounds and three assists. He was Denver’s best player.
All other Nuggets starters, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo, were a combined 25-of-76 from the floor for just 29 points.
And of course, Portland took advantage, even on a night where Damian Lillard wasn’t the Blazers' late-game hero.
“Norman Powell was great tonight,” Malone said. “He was in attack mode from jump street, Nurkic was great tonight...
With the first-round series now tied up at two apiece, the Blazers will head back to Denver to take on the Nuggets for Game 5 at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday.
After Saturday’s beatdown, Jokic knows Portland is a dangerous team and the Nuggets cannot be satisfied or exhibit a “relaxed mentality.”
Simply put, “We didn’t respond well. We have to be much better," he said.