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Nuggets Open the Season with a Win

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The Portland Trailblazers hadn’t lost a home opener at the Moda Center since 2000. Their run of 18 straight was good the longest active streak in the NBA until the Denver Nuggets came rolling into town with a chip on their shoulder.

After losing at home Game 7 of the second round last postseason, the Nuggets had a score to settle, and they did it in a big way. By a score of 108-100, the Nuggets start the season in the win column despite Damian Lillard scoring 32 points, Nikola Jokic receiving three fouls in the first four minutes of the game, and a bad night on the turnover front.

Jokic played only four minutes in the first half because of the foul trouble, recording zero points, one rebound, and zero assists. Luckily, Mason Plumlee was able to come in a provide excellent backup minutes where he had four rebounds, five assists, and moved the ball through the offense enough to keep the team in the game.

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When the ‘Joker’ finally came back in the second half, he played like a man who wasn’t going to lose this game, scoring 20 points, recording 13 rebounds and two assists (would have been more had shooters knocked down the wide-open threes he created for them).

The team won this game because of their incredible three-point shooting percentage, which was one heavy criticism of the team a year ago. They shot 18-of-32 for 56.3 percent from behind the arch, which made up for the fact that they only shot 42 percent from the field altogether.

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Nikola led the team in scoring and rebounding, but Will Barton played a really nice game with a stat line of 19 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block. Barton’s game was elevated at the free throw line where he made 11/12 shots. However, much to the surprise of the fans, Barton’s effective game combined with Torrey Craig and Jerami Grant’s three-and-D ability kept Michael Porter Jr. on the bench all game.

Porter was expected by many to get his NBA regular season debut in this game, but reported by the Denver Post the day before, Mike Malone and Michael Porter Jr. had a meeting before the season opener about his role and playing time. This meeting essentially had Malone tell the 21-year-old that he had to fight up the depth chart, passing other talented players, and prove that he deserves playing time. This will be an opportunity for Porter’s maturity and sportsmanship to shine bright as he keeps practicing hard and proving his skill, without the promise of playing time.

Gary Harris and Jamal Murray both had ineffective scoring nights, shooting low percentages, but both impacted the game in other ways. Harris ended a +5 in plus/minus and Murray ended +9, despite only scoring eight and 14 points respectively. The bench scored 36 points, shooting 6-of-9 from three, and carrying the team into the second half when Jokic could return.

Next up, the Nuggets get their home opener on Friday at the Pepsi Center, versus the Phoenix Suns, who are coming off a big win against the Sacramento Kings.

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Tyronn Lue, NBA
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