DENVER — The streak ended Thursday at Ball Arena, as the Nuggets started their longest scheduled homestand of the season.
The 140-108 win over the Trail Blazers marked the first time the Nuggets won the second half of a game since Dec. 4, a span of 17 games. Nuggets coach Michael Malone called it “a very sobering stat,” pregame.
“I think everybody who is a Nuggets fan was probably wondering when we got up big when the collapse was going to happen,” Malone said postgame. “Give our guys credit. We won every quarter, and we won the second half, I believe, for the first time since our game at New York in early December. This was one of our more consistent, 48-minute games that we’ve played, probably, all season.”
Will Barton III led six Nuggets to score 15 or more points with 21, Nikola Jokic (20), Jeff Green (19), Facundo Campazzo (18), Bones Hyland (17) and Zeke Nnaji (16) added supplementary scoring. Campazzo added 12 assists and four steals, while Jokic finished with eight rebounds and seven assists.
Nnaji also earned the team’s Defensive Player of the Game chain, which he wore to his press conference, and grabbed four of his nine rebounds on the offensive glass.
“Every game I feel more comfortable and confident in understanding what I’ve got to do and where I’ve need to be,” Nnaji said. “I think that’s only going to get better from here.
Portland played without its top-four leading scorers — Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Anfernee Simons.
“Regardless of who we were playing, who was out, I just thought we played the right way the whole night,” Malone said.
The Nuggets played without JaMychal Green, due to personal reasons, in addition to the handful of players with long-term injuries.
The Nuggets closed the first quarter on a 15-3 run behind solid contributions from Facundo Campazzo and Zeke Nnaji with the bench unit and led 41-28 to start the second. A 14-5 run midway through the second quarter allowed the Nuggets to stretch the lead to 19, and Denver led 72-55 at halftime. Denver finished the first half with 19 assists, the last of which went to a cutting Jeff Green, who dunk over Portland center Jusuf Nurkic in the final seconds of the first half. Jeff Green feasted on scoring off cuts in the first half, making all but one of his eight attempts from the field.
“He’s a smart guy. I’m a smart guy. We just play simple basketball,” Green said. “You know, try to make the right reads, try to find open spots. With his ability to pass, he’s putting it on the money. I just try to make it easier for him, and he’s making it easier for me, getting me open looks.”
After another dunk from Jeff Green got the Nuggets going in the second half, and Denver stretched the lead to 25 midway through the third quarter on a Barton 3-pointer. The Nuggets saw a 25-point third-quarter lead disappear in a loss to the Clippers on Tuesday but extended the lead to 30 in the fourth quarter on a Bones Hyland 3 and cruised the rest of the way.
“We got stops on the defensive end, we got out in transition and got easy looks,” Jeff Green said. “Shots were falling for us, but most importantly, I think our defense in the second half was great.”
After ending the unsightly streak, the Nuggets are scheduled to play the second of six straight home games Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s definitely a feel-good win,” Malone said.