Tonight the Blazes and Nuggets met for the 100th time in the last six months. Well, it feels like it doesn’t it? Without the Sonics in the Northwest, the Blazers are starting to form a good rivalry with the Nuggets. The Blazers did not start their 50th season off on a great foot, losing their first home opener since 2001.
The Nuggets came into Portland tonight and won 108-100.
First quarter thoughts
A lot of energy to start the game. Hassan Whiteside looked really good early. He had the first basket of the night and then got Nikola Jokic to commit three fouls in the first three minutes of the game. Whiteside would himself pick up a couple fouls and spend a good chunk of the first half on the bench himself.
CJ McCollum (current owner of the Nuggets according to Wikipedia anyway) started off right where he left off against the Nuggets in the playoffs last year. He scored from three, midrange, and down low early.
Torie Craig started going off as the Blazers were flowing offensively and this changed the momentum for a good middle chunk of the quarter. The Nuggets took a slight lead.
DAMIAN LILLARD DESTROYER OF DREAMS pic.twitter.com/7m0CEE0F9Q&amp;amp;mdash; BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) October 24, 2019
The Blazers had a 27-24 lead heading into the second quarter.
Second quarter thoughts
The Blazers went with all five reserves to start the second quarter. Anfernee Simons, Anthony Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, Skal Labissiere, and Kent Bazemore. hell their own against Denver’s own subs before the starters came back.
I have zero worry about Simons being the backup point guard this year. He’s aggressive defensively and such an athlete. The steal and dunk combo from him with about six minutes left in the second was amazing.
That was the highlight for the middle of the quarter. The Nuggets behind their bench and trickling in starters opened up a ten-point lead. Murray, Monte Morris, and Malik Beasley did whatever they wanted. Plus the Blazers helped out by contributing a couple of turnovers and Rodney Hood took a few bad shots.
Lillard and Whiteside come back in and the Blazers start chipping away. Whiteside with ten points and ten rebounds already in the second quarter. He’s busting his ass out there tonight. Safe to say his head is in the game so far tonight.
Bazemore had three straight steals with about a minute left in the half. The place is alive and the Blazers are only down at half, 50-54.
Some of the issues that plagued the Blazers last season have through this year. When the bench came into the game last year at the end of the first and through the first few minutes of the second quarter they were susceptible to the opposing bench going on runs. That happened here again. The Blazers have a deep bench, but they only have a few games playing together. The chemistry isn’t quite there yet.
Labissiere is turning into a decent product off the bench. He had four points and five rebounds off the bench.
I love Bazemore’s energy. That dude is going to be able to bridge the gap between the first and second unit really well. Rodney Hood had a quiet eight points in the half.
I’m curious if we’ll see a lineup of Simons, Dame, and CJ at some point in this game. I feel that would be a high energy, frenzy lineup. The more I think about this, the more I want to see it.
Third quarter thoughts
The Blazers seem flat-footed to start the third quarter. An easy three and an easy bucket by Jokic to start the half. Hood and Dame answer back with a couple of threes and Will Barton hits another three! Millsap three! The Nuggets have four threes in three minutes of the third. The Blazers are not closing out on shooters very well at all right now. They are all collapsing in at Jokic and leaving the shooters open.
Whiteside has been the Blazers’ best player so far. He has 14 points and 15 rebounds with six minutes left in the third quarter.
At the first media timeout of the quarter, I am not impressed with the energy at all from the team to start the half. They are jogging, sloppy passes, hands down on shots, not closing out, not chasing rebounds. It’s not like they can be tired, they’ve had since May off.
Have we talked about Zach Collins yet? Well, he just had his own 6-0 run to pull the Blazers with three, 64-67. Collins has eight nice points so far tonight. There were a couple of times that he also had to guard Jokic in the low block and held his ground. Jokic did not score on Collins in the post in the third.
Denver has another three-pointer. They have 13 threes and only 10 twos with three minutes left in the third quarter.
When Lillard and Simons are on the court together can we call them the Binary Brothers? We can workshop that one, I’m not married to it. The duo brings the Blazers back to give the Blazers a 74-73 lead heading into the fourth.
The energy really picked up with about four minutes left in the quarter. This allowed the Blazers to flow a lot better on offense. Simons is not shy about shooting and that’s good. And Dame Time started a little early tonight.
Fourth quarter thoughts
Terry Stotts is going to let Labissiere shoot from that far out? That’s cool. I didn’t know he had that type of range. I rally like Skal as a backup center.
The game is slowing down into a halfcourt, playoff-type slugfest now. Scoring has slowed way down. Though I think we had more scoring in the playoffs last year. This is reminding me a little bit of the old Bulls-Pistons-Knicks games from the early ’90s.
The refs are calling every borderline screen and arm extension on every drive. Players are really going to have to account for this going forward.
Jokic hits two wide-open threes with about three minutes left in the game. Whiteside did not close out with any urgency on either shot. Whiteside is going to always look for the block, so he’s going to hang around the paint. He’s such a good offensive rebounder that you don’t want him to be off the court in that situation, but he’s never going to close out on a three-point shooter. Thankfully there aren’t many centers who shoot threes like Jokic.
Dame starting to turn it on now. Blazers down six with 1:41 left. But he splits a pair of three throws and misses a challenged layup. Jokic follows up with a tip-in. Nuggets up 101-94 with 47 seconds left. This one is more than likely done.
Post game thoughts
After a great first quarter CJ McCollum was pretty much non-existent the rest of the game. He only had 12 points on 5 of 18 shooting tonight. He has five turnovers too. This was not the game that CJ needed to start the season. There were moments that I thought he wasn’t even on the floor and then he’d miss a shot, then disappear until he missed his next one.
The Nuggets were 18 of 32 from three tonight. A lot of these were wide open. Sometimes their ball movement was so quick that Portland was just chasing the ball around the top of the arc until it ended up in someone’s hands that were wide open. Then there were times that Portland sank so low on Jokic that it left multiple shooters wide open. Denver is a good shooting team. No excuse to give up so many opening three pointers.
The Blazers could not take advantage of Nikola Jokic only playing four minutes and not scoring in the first half. This just shows how deep the Nuggets are. They can lose their best player and still get a ten-point lead up on a really good Blazers team. The Nuggets are going to need to be watched for sure. Don’t had the Western Conference to the Clippers just yet.
The Blazers bench only scored 19 points tonight. That needs to be closer to 30 for the Blazers to be successful this year.
Whiteside had 16 points and 19 boards tonight. That’s a really good start for the biggest question mark in the starting lineup. Yep, a lot of people didn’t think he’d do much. He still needs to work on pick and roll chemistry with Dame. There were a few times he got in the way of the drive off the pick.
The Blazes play 13 of their next 17 away from home, starting Friday night in Sacramento. The Kings got roped by the Suns tonight. Did not see that one coming.
What jumps out to you about tonight’s game?