Against a Denver Nuggets team missing its reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic, the Portland Trail Blazers did what they should.
The Nuggets hung around in the first quarter, but the Trail Blazers went on an 18-3 run to close the first half and never let Denver back in. The team also was missing Michael Porter Jr., Jamal Murray and PJ Dozier who went down with a knee injury in the first quarter.
Winning the games they should is a welcome sight for a Blazers team that continues to say how much they are growing and adapting to all the new pieces and coaches this season.
"This is a trap game. They got a lot of players out; their best player is obviously hurt," CJ McCollum said. "You never really know what to expect from their players and the type of mentality they're going to have, but you know everybody has the green light. ... All in all, I thought we did what we were supposed to do to try and get a victory at home."
Of course, it helps when Portland's two biggest stars in McCollum and Damian Lillard go off.
McCollum put up 32 points on 13 for 19 shooting from the floor, 5 for 9 on 3-pointers, to lead the way while Lillard had 25 on 9 for 13 shooting, 5 for 8 from deep.
To cap off the fireworks, Greg Brown III went in for the Blazers in the final 3.5 minutes and threw a nasty between-the-legs dunk.
"He just sat for two hours and then you come in on your first fastbreak and go between the legs. ... He's a freak athlete," Robert Covington said on the dunk. "Pretty sure it pissed a lot of people off on the other end."
Earlier in the four-game homestead, which the Blazers won all four of, Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups talked about the team learning what it takes to play hard enough to win.
That starts with defense, which the Blazers forced all night getting 17 turnovers and 32 points out of those turnovers plus 28 fastbreak points.Â
"I thought our activity was great, our pressure was really good, and we took the challenge of knowing, obviously with no Joker, there was going to be some guys who really kind of step up and try to take up for the loss," Billups said. "They got some really capable dudes there so you have to fend off a letdown, and I thought we did a good job."
The Blazers now sit at 10-8 with a 9-1 record at home, meaning they're only 1-7 on the road. Denver falls to 9-9 and extends its losing streak to five games.
Up next for the Blazers is the Sacramento Kings, the only visiting team to win in Portland this season back on opening night Oct. 20.
Carrying the momentum of this defense and playing at that level is what the Blazers hope to see for the 7 p.m. tipoff Wednesday.Â
"We'll stay on top of the way that we handled things and keep moving in the right direction," Covington said.Â
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