Through two quarters Monday night, the Denver Nuggets appeared not only to be larger than the relatively undersized Portland Trail Blazers but also better.
The Nuggets shot better, rebounded better, moved the ball better and were more physical.
But none of that mattered once Blazers guard Anfernee Simons caught fire in the third quarter.
Simons scored 22 points in the third, draining six consecutive three-pointers during one breathtaking stretch that helped the Blazers flip 61-55 halftime deficit into a 99-86 lead. They went on to cruise to a 135-110 victory over the Nuggets at the Moda Center.
Simons finished with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while making 7 of 12 threes. He added five assists.
Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 31 and eight assists. He scored 19 points in the first half and finished the game 10 of 16 from the field, including 4 of 7 on threes.
Simons’ scoring barrage began early in the third quarter and came after quiet seven-point first half. He converted a finger roll with 9:48 left to tied the game at 64-64, then hit and a jumper to even things at 66-66. Then Simons expanded his range, launching threes at a dizzying rate. He connected on six consecutive threes, hitting his first at the 7:50 mark, before finally missing his seventh attempt with three minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Blazers outscored the Nuggets 44-25 in the third, taking control of the game.
“It was a great win for us against a great team,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said.
Portland held Denver center Nikola Jokic to nine points on 3-of-4 shooting, but he also had nine assists and nine rebounds. Aaron Gordon led the Nuggets with 26 points.
The Blazers last opened a season 4-0 during the 1999-2000 season.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets: Oct. 24, 2022
WHAT IT MEANS
The Blazers (4-0) ended the night as the only undefeated team in the Western Conference. Milwaukee (2-0) is the lone team in the Eastern Conference without a loss. The Blazers now have defeated two teams — Denver (2-2) and Phoenix (2-1) — considered championship contenders.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
The Blazers opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run and led by as many as 19 points in the quarter. The Nuggets got as close as 111-96 with 7:18 remaining, but the Blazers went on a 13-6 run. Simons found Lillard on the left side for an open three to give the Blazers a 124-102 lead with 4:07 remaining in the game. Denver called timeout and both teams removed their starters.
The Blazers committed just eight turnovers on Monday with only one coming in the second half. They entered the game having committed 48 in the first three games.
“I think it’s more than anything we’ve got a lot of guys playing with each other for the first time,” Billups said regarding the early struggled with turnovers.
Monday was a step in the right direction.
The Blazers host the Miami Heat (1-3) Wednesday at 7 p.m.
— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).
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