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Despite another stellar game from Will Barton, Nuggets fall to Lillard-less Trail Blazers

An Nguyen Avatar
December 31, 2015

 

The Nuggets fought hard but were visibly exhausted, aside from Will Barton who seemingly has an infinite reservoir of energy. Behind C.J. McCollum‘s 29 points, Portland out-shot and out-executed the tired Nuggets despite a late-game rally.

THE RUNDOWN

First Quarter – Starters: Jameer Nelson, Gary Harris, Kostas Papanikolaou, Kenneth Faried, Joffrey Lauvergne

McCollum has been on a tear scoring 35 points against the Kings in his last game; he showed no signs of slowing down against the Nuggets as he dropped 11 points (4-6 shooting) in the first quarter.

The Nuggets found themselves down by one halfway through the quarter when Nikola Jokic and Barton checked in. They’re completely different players but the one-two punch is reminiscent of when Chris Anderson and J.R. Smith would come in and completely swing a game in the Nuggets favor.

Barton wasted no time, immediately attacking the paint:

Then Jokic showed off his incredibly soft hands on this tough finish:

The bench regained the lead and Darrell Arthur hit a three before the end of the quarter to push the lead to four.

End of first: Nuggets up 27-23.

Second Quarter – Starters: Nelson, Randy Foye, Barton, Darrell Arthur, Jokic

Fortunately for the Nuggets, McCollum was finally on the bench in the second quarter. Unfortunately for them, they failed to capitalize getting outscored 20-11 during that stretch.

A common theme due to injuries, Barton was the lone bright spot in the second quarter, draining buckets left and right against his former team. He scored eight points in every manner imaginable, dunks, floaters, jumpers. Barton has bloomed into a great all-around scorer right in front of the Nuggets’ eyes.

Ready to rain on his parade, McCollum came back in and took control of the game with a strong and-1. He went on to score six points in the last 2:40 of the half to give the Blazers some breathing room.

Nelson hit a three to give the Nuggets a little momentum heading into the locker room, but in what has become an all-too-common occurrence, the Nuggets gave up a layup right before the buzzer.

End of second: Trail Blazers up 55-51.

Third Quarter – Starters: Nelson, Harris, Papanikolaou, Faried, Lauvergne

Devoid of Barton or Jokic, the Nuggets struggled to score and allowed the Blazers to extend their lead to 12 before The People’s Champ checked in for Papa. It’s clear at this point that at least one of them has to be in the game while the Nuggets remain decimated by injuries. Barton paid dividends immediately hitting his second four-point play of the season:

In contrast, McCollum continued running his team like a well-oiled machine, scoring at will and setting his teammates up for success. Denver has had trouble defending spot-up shooters and have had the hair-pulling tendency to sag into the paint and give up open looks. Tonight it was Allen Crabbe burning the Nuggets as he hit back-to-back threes on his way to 17 points through three quarters.

End of third: Cavaliers up 84-71.

Fourth Quarter – Starters: Foye, Barton, Miller, Arthur, Jokic

It was more Barton, typical of someone who leads the NBA in fourth quarter field goal attempts. He led the Nuggets on a 13-2 run that single-handedly got them back into a game they had no business winning.

Unfortunately the Nuggets still could not find an answer to McCollum as he closed out the game like a veteran, hitting timely jumper after timely jumper. Even Nuggets ace defender Harris failed to contain him on a necessary stop to win the game.

Final: Trailblazers win 110-103.

WHERE/WHEN

Moda Center, Portland, OR | Dec. 30th | Regular Season Game 33 (12-21)

STAR OF THE GAME

Who else but Will the Thrill? Barton has been on an absolute tear this entire season and showed no signs of slowing down against his former team. Dropping a game-high 31 points on 12-22 shooting, Barton continues to make ripples across the league. More and more people are starting to know his name.

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Barton with a nice steal and fastbreak JAM!

The Manimal with a CLUTCH block.

The Manimal with yet another clutch block and beastly rebound.

BY THE NUMBERS

NBA.com
NBA.com

It was a night to remember for the Nuggets big men as they shot a combined 12-33 from the field. Faried was the only big man who grabbed double digit rebounds and Jokic was the only one to finish above 50 percent shooting. Jusuf Nurkic can’t get back soon enough.

Harris continued to shoot well and I’m not sure Nuggets fans fully realize just how lucky we are to have the “3&D” player some have dreamed for Gary to be. There’s reason to be just as optimistic about Harris as any of the Nuggets youngsters.

LASTING IMPRESSION

The losses keep piling up as the Nuggets drop their fourth straight.  Nurkic, Emmanuel Mudiay and Danilo Gallinari cannot get healthy soon enough as the Nuggets need all the help they can get. Still, it’s good to see the team play hard on the second game of a back-to-back, including Barton’s continued reign.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Nuggets will fly to Oakland tonight and prepare to face the Warriors Saturday (Jan. 2nd) night in the Oracle Arena. Tip off is at 8:30 p.m. MT.

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