The point of emphasis for the Denver Nuggets coming into Game 2 against the Portland Trail Blazers:
Be more physical.
Mission accomplished for the Nuggets.
Monday night as the Nuggets defeated the Trail Blazers, 128-109, Denver was the aggressor.
And both teams felt that way following the chippy game that even the series at 1-1.
"That right there was a playoff game for both teams," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said postgame. "The intensity, you had two high-level players in Damian Lillard and Nikola Jokic playing at their respective levels. The crowd was great, big shout-out to our crowd making this such a tough place to play. But it was chippy, and that's the way it should be. We're both fighting for something and that's the way the playoffs should be. I loved it, that's my kind of game right there."
Damian Lillard took it upon himself in the second quarter, scoring 22 of his 42 on the night, to try and carry the Blazers in making a comeback after the Blazers dug themselves into a hole early.
Lillard says, they knew the Nuggets would come out with more energy and be more aggressive following a Game 1 loss.
"They just brought energy to the game... The physicality, the deflections and things like that -- which was expected."
But as Lillard also pointed out it doesn’t matter what time of scoring wizardry a player or team shows against a great team like the Nuggets if the team’s defense isn’t on the same page.
After Denver took a quick 17-7 lead in the first four minutes, the Blazers and Nuggets bench cleared while double technical fouls were called. The technicals were assessed to Michael Porter Jr. and Blazers assistant coach Nate Tibbetts after Porter Jr. pushed Jusuf Nurkic as Portland called timeout.
But with the contest looking more like an intense playoff game, the physical nature seemed to have taken its toll on the officiating.
A total of 52 fouls were whistled, including 27 on the Trail Blazers.
Over the course of the regular season, Portland averaged 18.9 fouls per game.
CJ McCollum, who was charged with a flagrant 1 foul for pushing over Facundo Campazzo in the third quarter, had this to say about the call:
“I look forward to challenging it so I can get some of that money back. But it is what it is. I guess they were trying to get control of the game back.”
McCollum notched 21 points in the loss.
After the Nuggets prevailed in being the more physical and aggressive team Monday night, Portland’s veteran Norman Powell, who came on late with his scoring to record 15 points, knows that he and the Blazers will have plenty to change ahead of Game 3.
“It’s not just on Dame or CJ. It’s on all the guys who are getting out there and playing to toughen up, make plays, make winning plays the way they were doing. They were physical, they were getting 50/50 balls, getting on the ground – that’s what we got to do.”
Portland will look to play with more of an edge in Game 3 in front of 8,000 fans Thursday night at Moda Center.
Having more fans in the stands will only help the Blazers aggressive gameplan.