Carmelo Anthony spent a lot of the first half reminding the Denver Nuggets who used to take names and dominate the opposition in a No. 15 jersey. Sadly for the Portland Path Blazers, Nikola Jokic reminded them of who wears it now. With some late-game assist from star teammate Jamal Murray, the 2 of them put collectively sufficient performs to flee with a hard-fought 111-106 victory.
The loss dropped the Blazers to 18-13, and into the West’s No. 6 spot with 4 video games remaining within the NBA’s first half schedule.
This loss specifically is uncommon, in that Portland went three quarters with just one participant — Anthony — scoring off the bench. Midrange photographs and cornrow-styled hair are not the favored model, however Portland got here just a few bounces away from turning 2020 into 2004. Anthony poured in 24, Lillard erupted late for 25, and the Blazers had three others rating 15+ in a dropping effort.
That in thoughts, listed here are some ideas on tonight’s sport:
For the second time in as many nights, Portland’s offense was disorganized to start out. Portland solely mustered one subject purpose on its first six possessions. Whereas ready for his or her No. 6 ranked offense to thaw, the Blazers turned to their defensive vitality to maintain the sport in query.
As is the case with every sport, the chess match between how Denver schemed to defend Damian Lillard served because the central story. The Nuggets didn’t concede a lot house for Lillard to name his personal quantity, however the newly-named six-time All-Star facilitated to search out teammates for six assists within the first quarter alone.
The largest beneficiary was Enes Kanter, who used the brief roll to drift his method into eight factors or sift by reads for assists of his personal. Despite their efforts, the Blazers fell right into a 34-25 gap main into the second quarter due to Denver’s transition offense.
It’s turn into a urgent query over the previous few weeks, and it possible made its rounds amongst Portland households throughout tonight’s sport: how on Earth are the Blazers going to generate environment friendly offense with Damian Lillard on the bench?
Portland entered Tuesday because the NBA’s absolute worst workforce when it comes to second quarter level differential (-3.3) and No. 26 in factors (26.9), largely as a result of their offensive star rests, and there isn’t a CJ McCollum accessible to stagger that and cease the potential bleeding. Portland discovered offensive respite by Carmelo Anthony.
Nuggets coach Mike Malone compelled his personal business break and schemed up a distinct technique to cease Anthony’s torrential downpour: double groups from the entry cross defender or from the baseline, forcing Anthony to play extra quarterback. These passes to weak aspect shooters, paired with Lillard’s return to the sport arrange the Blazers properly; they weathered the storm, and took a 57-57 standstill into the second half.
Having the Blazers-Nuggets cap off Tuesday on primetime supplied an opportunity for a nationwide viewers to see two Most Beneficial Participant candidates — Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard — duke it out on the identical time. The field rating didn’t all the time present it, however the tape actually will.
Using pick-and-pops and and contact within the lane, Jokic made life tough for the Blazers’ protection, hoisting his method into 30 factors early into the third quarter (on 25 photographs).
On the opposite finish, Lillard repeatedly probed the lane, setting his guys up, and hitting the occasional shot to maintain defenses trustworthy. What he lacked in gaudy level totals, he made up for in level creation, with 12 assists heading into the fourth quarter.
Outdoors of that, listed here are three different takeaways heading into the fourth: (1) Portland went three quarters and had just one bench participant rating, in Anthony. (2) Nassir Little seems to be incomes Terry Stotts’ belief; he was the primary sub to stroll to the scorer’s desk, and he rewarded Stotts with vitality. (3) Hold a monitor on Lillard’s shoulder, as TNT’s broadcast famous. On two separate events, he hit 3-pointers, solely to airball the subsequent try.
When Neil Olshey put collectively his imaginative and prescient for Portland final offseason, the Blazers’ defensive efforts within the fourth quarter have been possible what he had in thoughts. Utilizing the size and vitality of Little, Hood, and Covington to reflect Jamal Murray’s actions, the Path Blazers had solutions for the Nuggets offense with Jokic resting.
Legend has it, Murray learn that above sentence, and instantly took offense. Actually. After beginning the sport 1-of-9, Murray erupted for 15 fourth-quarter factors. The sensation within the air advised a duel with Lillard was coming, however Denver’s protection put collectively sufficient resistance to kill off suspense.
Portland will get a two-day break earlier than their prime time, measuring stick sport towards the defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.