Portland’s pathetic defense and coaching costs them Game 2 in Denver

by Kevin Nesgoda

On a night when the Portland Trail Blazers could have really put the Denver Nuggets in a deep hole in these playoffs their terrible defense and even worse coaching. The Blazers couldn’t use the record-breaking night from Damian Lillard to take a 2-0 series lead at Ball Arena in Denver.

Terry Stotts made some decisions tonight that would have had rookie middle school coaches scratching their head.

First Quarter Thoughts

As expected the Nuggets started out red hot and lept out to a double-digit lead in the first four minutes of the game. The Nuggets were hitting all their threes and Nikola Jokic was doing his typical MVP-type things. The Blazers did not have the energy early on to keep up with the Nugget onslaught.

Nate Tibbets and Michael Porter Jr decided to get into it a bit after a timeout. It’s not often that you see an assistant coach get into it with an opposing player. Both individuals were assessed technical fouls and we are allowed to move on with our lives.

Nikola Jokic is ridiculous. There is a shot that he could go for somewhere around 700 points tonight. Not sure if defensive mastermind, Terry Stotts, has it in his constitution to put together a game plan that can stop Jokic.

Logo Lillard knocks down a three from well, the logo. Anfernee Simons follows up with a three of his own and the Blazers are only down six to end the quarter. All things considered, things could have gotten way out of hand. It might have been a success only being down by around 11.

Second Quarter Thoughts

Lillard goes to the bench and the Blazers begin to turn the ball over again. The Denver defense has been solid tonight, but some of these turnovers by Portland are definitely self-inflicted. They are going to need to start taking care of the ball to keep things close.

Denver took advantage of the turnovers to push the lead up to 16 points. Michael Porter Jr. is really becoming that second and third option that the Nuggets needed.

I also don’t like how this game is being called both ways. The officials are keeping their whistles in their pockets on some stuff that would have been a foul in a Knicks-Heat series back in the 90s. I like letting them play, but not when dudes are getting knocked out into the covid riddled fans of Denver.

Carmelo Anthony and CJ McCollum knock down a couple of baskets to give the Blazers some hope. Paul Milsap decided he didn’t like to give hope to anyone and had back-to-back three-point plays to push the Nuggets’ lead up to 18 points.

It might just be time to take a shower and head off to bed.

Damian Lillard was not ready for bed and he did not care that the bus was warming up. He hit three straight threes to cut the Nuggets lead down to 11, 57-46 with 4:45 left in the half. It seems like it’s been since February since we’ve seen this Damian Lillard. It looks like that hamstring might finally be healthy.

Oh hey, Derrick Jones Jr. finally was allowed to get into the game. They needed someone to slow MPJ down.

Lillard hits another three and goes to the line for two free throws. The Denver lead is down to only eight points, 61-53. The man is absolutely ridiculous right now. He has 29 points for the game and 19 in — he hit another three before I could finish typing out this sentence.

My god! I have a feeling I’m going to need a cigarette after this and I don’t even smoke.

Lillard single-handed led the Blazers back within four points. it doesn’t matter where he is shooting from they are all going down. There is no better step-back three in all of the league.

The Nuggets were forced to call a timeout and Mike Malone got Denver to pick up the defensive intensity. This led to some big plays by the Nuggets who finished the half on a 9-0 run to take a 73-61 lead into halftime.

Third Quarter Thoughts

Portland is focusing on getting CJ and Nurk going to start the third quarter here. I like the move to get their other two main scorers going, but Lillard had the hot hand — it’s a damned if you do and a damned if you don’t situation. I’d like to see Norman Powell get going as well.

It might also be because Aaron Gordon is now on Damian Lillard.

The Nuggets have only outscored the Blazers by three points (8-5) so far here in the third quarter, but it feels so much more than that. I’m having flashbacks to that 94 series of the Sonics and Nuggets with how loud the crowd is getting into this. If I were the Blazers I’d start using Norm as the point guard and play both Dame and CJ off the ball. Make their defenders work a bit more.

Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo have both been pretty annoying in various ways this game. I’d love Campazzo if here were a Blazer, but he’s not.

Looking at the box score and Robert Covington has not taken a single shot this game. He’s not done much else either. Enes Kanter with only two points and three boards in this game as well. Only seven points combined from the Blazer bench. Eesh, Carmelo Anthony and Simons really need to get going.

Greg Anthony with the Bobby Heenan “ham and egger” reference. Damn, I miss that dude. His work at Royal Rumble 92 is some of the best wrestling commentary work of all time.

Campazzo gets a flagrant on CJ by just running into CJ. That is one of the worst calls I’ve seen in a game of bad calls. This leads to a four-point play by the Nuggets and they are back up by 17 points. Yet again, this is another really bad Blazer third quarter.

Threes by both Dame and CJ to end the quarter cut the Nugget lead down to 14.

That was not pretty whatsoever. I can’t wait until Stotts is fired and third quarters might not be something to be scared of anymore.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts

Portland had some nice defensive energy to start the fourth quarter. Nurkic with a big move to start the quarter, Powell attacking, and Nurkic fouls Milsap for no apparent reason… this was his fifth foul. About 15 seconds later he fouls out of the game.

No idea why Stotts didn’t pull Nurk out with so much time left and Jokic not on the court. Stotts makes some of the dumbest coaching mistakes I’ve ever seen in games. Nurk was playing well to start the fourth, but not to the point of leading the Blazers back on his own. He’s best served using that last foul on Jokic at some point in the final six minutes of the game after Kanter gets a rest.

Stotts then challenged the foul and it was unsuccessful. It was an obvious foul so the challenge was just a waste of the challenge and a timeout. The Nuggets of course go on a 9-0 to get the lead back up to 20 and ice the game.

Monte Morris, Shaquille Harrison, and Jokic finished off the game as the Blazers brought in the back end of the bench. At least Harry Giles, Nassir Little, and CJ Elleby got some playoff minutes. That’s about the only positive for the night.

Not a good look at all tonight.

Up Next

Game 3 is on Thursday at 7:30 PM — the series switches to Portland.

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