Blazers fall to Nuggets 108-100, snapping home-opener win streak
Moda Center –
All good things must come to an end, someone famous said once.
Attribution aside, the Trail Blazers long NBA-record 18-straight wins in home-openers came to an end Wednesday night in Moda Center to the Denver Nuggets, 108-100. The Blazers fall to 0-1 on the season, while Denver is 1-0.
Portland will embark on a four-game road trip that begins Friday night in Sacramento against the Kings and also swings through Dallas, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City.
Damian Lillard led all scorers in the opener with 32 points on 10-of-21 shooting, but his backcourt co-star CJ McCollum had a quiet night with 12 points on only 5 made field goals of his 18 attempts.
A bright spot was clearly the play of newcomer Hassan Whiteside, whom the Blazers acquired in an off-season trade with the Miami Heat. The big man had a double-double by halftime and finished with an impressive stat line of 16 points (6-of-7 FGs), 19 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots in 26 minutes of action.
After taking a one point lead into the fourth quarter at 74-73, the Blazers watched the Nuggets pulled ahead for an 85-83 edge with 7:52 left, forcing a Blazers timeout. Damian Lillard responded by forcing contact on a quick three-point attempt and hit all the freebies to give Portland the lead back at 86-85. An incredible putback by Whiteside of a Lillard miss made it an 88-87 lead with just under five minutes left.
But Denver responded out of their timeout with four straight points to go up 91-88. All-Star big man Nikola Jokic then connected on back to back three-pointers, and Denver led 97-90 with three minutes to go. Lillard hit a triple to make it a four-point deficit, but the Nuggets held firm and pulled away from there. A Jokic tip-follow all but iced it with just over a minute remaining giving Denver a 101-94 advantage.
Anfernee Simons drove from the right wing and finished with an acrobatic scoop layup that gave the Blazers a 74-73 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Portland trailed at the halftime break 54-50, but Whiteside impressed with an early double-double effort of 10 points and 11 rebounds. Denver’s Nikola Jokic was plagued with early foul-trouble, getting whistled for three fouls in just the first four minutes of the game and had to sit the rest of the half. The Nuggets impressed without him, though, leading by as many as ten before Portland cut it to four at the break.
Damian Lillard got his first bucket of the new season in style. Midway through the first quarter he used a spin move off a right hand dribble to get into the paint, finishing with a powerful right handed slam and roar that put the sellout crowd into a frenzy.
Zach Collins had an impressive sequence in the second quarter, using a low post pump-fake and drop step to finish at the rim, then blocking a Denver layup attempt on the other end.
The Nuggets overtook Portland midway through the second quarter, taking a 49-39 lead as Jamal Murray hit a triple that lead to a Blazers timeout. Portland responded well out of the timeout thanks to Hassan Whiteside scrapping for a loose ball to snare and offensive rebound and finish the outback. A Lillard mid-range jumper made it 49-43 late in the first half.
Portland forced three steals in the final two minutes of the half, the last of which included an alley-oop from Lillard to Rodney Hood. It was all part of an 11-4 run for the home team to close the half and made it 54-50 Denver at halftime.
The Trail Blazers led 27-24 at the end of the first quarter despite committing eight turnovers.