Hello Blazer fans, Antonio here. The Blazers continued their losing slide, dropping a close game to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. Since beating Denver in Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals in 2019, Portland has only beaten the Nuggets once in the past two years.
While Carmelo Anthony shined early on and Damian Lillard picked it up late, Portland has now lost three games in a row after a six-game winning streak. Let’s take a closer look.
Nikola Jokic Feasts
The Blazers may have an MVP Candidate in Damian Lillard, but the Nuggets have an MVP front-runner in Nikola Jokic. The Serbian big man scored 41 points on 17/32 shooting, chipping in five assists and rebounds as well.
For as good of an offensive player as Enes Kanter is, his defense has always been questionable, and on Tuesday, we saw the worst of it. Kanter attempted to contest Jokic’s shots, but did not faze the center at all. Jokic was content to knock down mid range shots from the top of the key all day.
In the past, Portland has let star big men like Joel Embiid, Zion Williamson, and Nikola Vucevic go off for big numbers, but came away with the win. However, the Blazers made only 14 of their 40 threes and shot only 10 free throws.
Terry Stotts and his team have been living and dying by the three-pointer. Some days it looks pretty, and the offense is unstoppable. But on the days its off, the team continues to jack up unwanted threes instead of driving to the hoop and taking contact.
Despite some offensive struggles, there were bright spots for the Blazers. Derrick Jones Jr. has come into his own over the past five games, scoring over 10 points four times. Meanwhile, Gary Trent has hit three threes in 12 straight games, a Blazers record. These aspects of the offense are positive, but against Denver the inconsistency was too much.
New Second Half Schedule
At noon on Wednesday, the NBA released the second half of the NBA schedule. The NBA season will resume after the All-Star Break on March 11 and the regular season will conclude on May 8. During that time frame, Portland has 19 home games and 18 away games.
The Blazers have pushed through injuries and rode a fairly easy schedule to a respectable 18-14 record, tied for fifth in the West. However, things will get tougher for Portland in the second half.
A fairly easy March has three straight doubleheaders between theTimberwolves, Pelicans, and Mavericks, but the schedule gets ugly in April. 16 of the 18 games will be against playoff teams, a brutal stretch. Hopefully. The Blazers will be able to win in March and coast through in April, aided by the hopeful return of CJ McCollum.
Next up: An ESPN spotlight Friday night against the Lakers.
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