PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)CJ McCollum scored 32 points and the Portland Trail Blazers handed the depleted Denver Nuggets their fifth straight loss, 119-100 on Tuesday night.
Damian Lillard had 25 points and five assists to help the Blazers to their fourth consecutive win and ninth in a row at home.
Jeff Green led Denver with 24 points.
After a slow start to the season, the Blazers believe they’re starting to gel under new coach Chauncey Billups and his staff.
”I think we’re just figuring each other out,” McCollum said. ”We have a new staff, a new structure, new principles. It takes time. Slowly but surely, we are getting better. We’re communicating better, we’re starting to understand more what Chauncey and our staff want.”
The defining run of the game came late in the second quarter. After the Nuggets took a 49-48 lead with 3:35 left, Portland seized control. The Trail Blazers unleashed an 18-3 spurt to close the first half, sparked by four 3-pointers from Lillard and capped by a buzzer-beating layup by McCollum, giving them a 64-52 lead at halftime.
”The notable plays were Dame’s shot-making, but it came from turnovers,” Billups said. ”CJ had two really big on-ball steals in isolation situations, two steals that led to baskets. The defense sparked that run for us. I’ve talked about us closing out quarters and halves; I was very proud of how we closed out the first half.”
From that point on, the smallest Blazers lead was eight points.
The Nuggets lost yet another player to injury. Denver forward PJ Dozier fell to the floor with a left knee injury in the first quarter and had to be helped to the locker room by teammates. He did not return.
The injury came at a tough time for the Nuggets. Dozier joined NBA MVP Nikola Jokic (right wrist), Jamal Murray (left knee recovery), Michael Porter Jr. (back) and Bones Hyland (right ankle) on Denver’s lengthy injury report.
”This was a trap game,” McCollum said. ”A lot of players are out, their best player is obviously hurt. You never know what to expect when everybody has the green light, but I thought we did a good job.”
The Blazers dominated the Nuggets 28-2 in fast-break points, due in large part to 19 Denver turnovers. Portland only had nine turnovers.
SHOWING LOCAL SUPPORT
Nuggets coach Michael Malone took the podium before the game in a Colorado Rapids jersey, showing support for Denver’s MLS team before its playoff game later this week against the Portland Timbers. The Rapids finished with the most points in the Western Conference.
”I just want to say congratulations on a historic season and Robin Fraser, the head coach, has done an amazing job in a short period of time,” Malone said of his pregame attire. ”The Rapids don’t get the attention and credit they deserve and I just wanted to show they have the support of the Denver Nuggets.”
The Blazers will be on the road for Thanksgiving, beginning a three-game trip Wednesday. Billups said the team has a meal planned for the holiday, but his family won’t be joining him on the trip.
”I’d rather have them be with the family than have a hotel Thanksgiving,” Billups said.
Nuggets: Host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.
Trail Blazers: At the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
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