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Jokic leads Nuggets to first win in Portland since 2013

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, right, shoots past Portland Trail Blazers center Zach Collins, left, and forward Ed Davis, center, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Denver has gone through four coaches and has only three players remaining from the last time it won in Portland.

The wait for another victory is over.

Nikola Jokic scored 27 points and the Nuggets beat the Trail Blazers 102-85 on Friday night, their first victory in Portland since 2013.

Jokic hit 12 of 21 shots and grabbed eight rebounds as the Nuggets ended a nine-game losing streak to the Blazers in Portland. Wilson Chandler scored a season-high 21 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Denver coach Michael Malone said he asked the team during the morning shootaround what happened on Feb. 27, 2013, the last time Denver beat the Blazers in Portland.

"Everybody looked around like I had no idea," Malone said.

The Nuggets did it with an inside-first philosophy, pounding the Blazers with Jokic and Chandler. Denver didn't score its first basket outside the paint until midway through the second quarter.

"We wanted to get to the paint just because that will open the 3s, that will open the easy passes. That is our game plan every game, but tonight we kind of did it all as a team," Jokic said.

Portland played without Damian Lillard, who strained his hamstring strain in Wednesday's game against San Antonio. Lillard is the Blazers' leading scorer at 25.2 points a game.

The Blazers, who lost their sixth consecutive home game, heard scattered boos from crowd during the fourth quarter.

"We didn't play a very good game. They won every quarter. We didn't do very many things well enough to come close to winning the game," Portland coach Terry Stotts said.

C.J. McCollum led Portland with 15 points, while Shabazz Napier had 14. Rookie Zach Collins scored a career-high 10 points, but fouled out after playing 18 minutes.

Gary Harris scored 17 points for Denver, but more important to Malone, he kept McCollum under wraps. On a night when the Lillard-less Blazers desperately needed McCollum, he shot just 3 of 11 during the first half.

"Any time C.J. was in the game, we had Gary match up with him. I thought Gary embraced the opportunity to guard him. He was relentless in his pursuit," Malone said.

The Nuggets led 52-41 at halftime as Jokic scored 18 first-half points. They separated themselves from Portland late in the second quarter with a 10-0 run.

Denver continued to punish Portland inside during the third quarter, as Chandler scored eight points and Jokic seven in taking an 80-66 lead. The Nuggets led by as many as 19 points during the third quarter.

Jokic drew his fourth foul early in the third quarter, but Malone said he was "not close" to pulling him from the game.

"I knew if I pulled him at that point, I felt things would go south very quickly," Malone said.

Portland was unable to get closer than 10 in the fourth.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Denver scored its first 16 baskets in the paint. ... Harris returned to the starting lineup after missing one game (elbow contusion). ... Denver avoided its first three-game losing streak of the season. It was also just the Nuggets' third win over Portland in the past five seasons.

Trail Blazers: Lillard is unlikely to play in Saturday's game at the Los Angeles Lakers, though Stotts said he would make the trip. ... Jake Layman, who has played the fewest games (13) and minutes (83) on the roster, made his first start of the season, and second of his two-year career. ... Maurice Harkless played for the first time in five games, scoring four points in 19 minutes.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Saturday at Golden State.

Trail Blazers: Saturday at Los Angeles Lakers.


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