The altitude in Colorado has always given the Denver Nuggets an extra edge when playing at home, and this year they are taking full advantage.
Denver has risen above its opposition after winning 13 consecutive home games and will go for No. 14 when it plays host to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.
The 13-game winning streak on their home court has helped vault the Nuggets atop the Western Conference standings halfway through the season. They have won 16 of 19 overall and last lost at home to Dallas on Dec. 6.
Denver had won four straight games by double digits until Sunday night when Orlando rallied from 15 down to take a four-point lead in the fourth quarter. Nikola Jokic bailed out his team by hitting a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to win it 119-116.
As stressful as it was, coach Michael Malone said the close victory was a positive.
“Not every (win) is going to be a work of art,” Malone said. “Not every one is going to be a 20-point win and, honestly, it’s probably good to have a game like this.”
One negative that came out of the win was a sprained ankle for backup point guard Bones Hyland. The injury happened in the first half, and he didn’t return to the game. Malone said Monday on Altitude Radio that Hyland is day-to-day.
If Hyland can’t go, it might mean more minutes for rookie Christian Braun, who has played well when given the chance. Malone has admitted he needs to find more playing time for Braun.
Denver will try to win the season series against Portland on Tuesday when the Northwest Division rivals play the last of four games against each other. The Trail Blazers won the first game at home, but the Nuggets have taken the last two, including a last-second win at Portland on Dec. 8 thanks to a Jamal Murray 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left.
Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard scored 40 points in that loss and 34 in Denver’s 13-point win on Dec. 23. Lillard is averaging 35 points in the three games against the Nuggets and 28.8 points per game overall.
Lillard has dropped 50 points and 40 points in two of his last three games and is averaging 38 points over the last five games.
“I’ve just been coming out of the gate to attack, getting downhill, getting to the paint,” Lillard said after Portland defeated Dallas 140-123 on Sunday night. It was their second win in as many nights over the Mavericks — both at home — and Lillard was the driving force.
“He’s just laser focused right now,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “He’s attacking every pick-and-roll coverage that they throw at him.
“That quick twitch that he has getting to the basket, what do you do with that?”
Lillard has been carrying the Blazers, but reinforcements have arrived. Gary Payton II returned after missing the first two-plus months of the season and Nassir Little is also back.
Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic, who played three seasons with the Nuggets before a 2017 trade to the Blazers, has averaged 15.2 points and 9.2 rebounds in 16 games against his former team.
–Field Level Media