Wednesday night’s game against the Orlando Magic was a marquee night for the Trail Blazers. Having already gone over .500 as an NBA head coach this season, Terry Stotts logged his 400th win. He had a little help from Damian Lillard who scored 41 points, and dumped ten three-pointers, setting a new franchise record. It was definitely a win, but it was a bit too close for comfort. The Blazers have already handled Orlando once this season, plus way better teams since then. The Magic aren’t complete slags, but the Blazers should’ve had them wire to wire.

Last night the Blazers did battle with the Denver Nuggets. If the home team thought a win against the Magic was laborious, the Nuggets had the potential to work the Blazers like a chain gang. Before last night’s game, the Nuggets were sitting at number two in the Western Conference, and number one in the Northwest Division. The Blazers went 1-3 against Denver last season. Last night was this season’s first game of four for the two teams to tangle. A win would’ve been a good tone to set for the next three.

Sticking with their pattern of late, the Blazers tanked pretty bad the first half of the game, started to put the pieces back together in the third, but didn’t have enough steam to cross the finish line first in the final minutes. The Nuggets squeaked by the Blazers, 113-112.

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Photo By Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com

The Nuggets’ defense was clean and tight to start the game. They didn’t log their first foul until there was just over three minutes left in the quarter. Lillard didn't get on the board until there was less than two minutes left. Thankfully, CJ McCollum managed to find some cracks and score ten points before he was subbed out. That didn’t stop Denver from being up by double digits for a bulk of the quarter. It was shaping up to be a long night.

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Photo By Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com

The Blazers had no starters on the court to start the second. The bench did their best to dig into the Nuggets’ lead. Meyers Leonard posterized Mason Plumlee with a one-handed dunk that was arguably the highlight of his career thus far. Even Leonard haters couldn’t turn their noses up on that monstrous slam.
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Photo By Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com

Aside from Leonard’s dunk, the story was all Nuggets throughout the quarter. The Blazers had nine turnovers to the Nuggets’ two. Denver took full advantage, and a 15 point lead into the second half of the game.

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The third quarter was more of the same. The Nuggets had ahold of the wheel and the Blazers were struggling to take it away from them. Anytime the Blazers shortened the Nuggets’ lead to under ten, they’d jerk the chain and push it right back up.

It looked like Lillard’s blood started to boil the last few minutes of the third. It felt like the clock was gonna strike Dame Time at any second. With some big stops and a couple big threes from Lillard, the Blazers chipped the Nuggets’ lead down to six going into the final 12 minutes.

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Photo By Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com

With eight minutes left in the fourth, the Blazers knocked the Nuggets’ seemingly impenetrable lead down to three. They were white-knuckling it, fighting furiously to get the win. Of course, it came down to the final 55 seconds and a tied game. After a clutch three from the Nuggets’ Gary Harris, a quick two from CJ, and a couple of sloppy inbounding plays from the Nuggets, CJ took the last shot in the final seconds for the win. Alas, it clanged off, and the game was over.

Something is certainly array with the Blazers right now. They’re like a different team from quarter to quarter, and half to half. They can’t seem to catch a wave and ride it from one end of a game to the other. There’s plenty of season left to find and fix whatever the issue may be, but damn if it isn’t unfortunate to watch the Blazers slog along and drop close games like this one.