Barton scores 21, Nuggets beat exhausted Blazers 140-108

DENVER (AP) – Will Barton had 21 points before leaving in the third quarter with a tense neck, Nikola Jokic …

DENVER (AP) – Will Barton had 21 points before leaving in the third quarter with a tense neck, Nikola Jokic added 20 and the Denver Nuggets beat the exhausted Portland Trail Blazers 140-108 Thursday night.

The Nuggets built their lead up to 26 points in the third quarter – and this time it did not let it slip away.

Two nights ago, Denver blew a 25-point lead in Los Angeles against the Clippers. The loss of major leads has become an alarming trend at Nuggets.

But not this time. Although it took the Nuggets almost three minutes inside the third quarter before they scored their first basket – a dunk by Jeff Green, which finished with 19 points. It made them roll again.

Facundo Campazzo had 18 points and 12 assists for the Nuggets. Jokic, who did not play in the fourth quarter, also had eight rebounds and seven assists. It was a rare game where he did not record a double-double.

There was a scary moment late in the third quarter where Barton seemed to bump his neck into a Portland player on a drive. He stayed down for several moments while teammates surrounded him. Barton went to the locker room and later returned to the bench.

Ben McLemore had 18 points as all five Portland starters scored double-digit to begin a tour of six games. The Blazers were without their top four scorers in Damian Lillard (abdominal tendinopathy), CJ McCollum (right lung pneumothorax), Norman Powell (health and safety protocols) and Anfernee Simons (personal causes).

As Denver’s reserves played most of the fourth quarter, the Nuggets built up their lead to 37 points.

TIP-INS

Blazers: McCollum is expected to join the team at some point in the trip. … F Larry Nance Jr. (right knee) was out. … G Dennis Smith Jr. scored 17.

Nuggets: Before the match, G Jamal Murray (left knee) and F Michael Porter Jr. shot. (back surgery) curve at opposite ends of the floor. … Denver has taken two of three in the season series against Portland, with the final game Feb. 27 in Portland.

MISS LILLARD

Lillard underwent surgery Thursday morning to repair a core injury that has caused him stomach pain. Lillard will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

“He told me several times that he does not even know what it feels like to play healthy – that’s so long ago,” said Blazer coach and Denver coach Chauncey Billups. “I’m glad he’s going to be able to get healthy, get back with his mind fresh, his body fresh.”

WELCOME ON BOARD

The Blazers hired Andrae Patterson as assistant general manager. The Billups could not help but reflect on a first-round NCAA tournament game in 1997 when the Billups’ Colorado Buffaloes beat Patterson’s Indiana Hoosiers 80-62.

“It was a great game,” Billups cracked.

BOL BACK

A deal between Detroit and the Nuggets was canceled after the big man Bol Bol did not receive medical clearance with the Pistons. The Nuggets on Monday finalized the deal to send Bol to Detroit in exchange for guard Rodney McGruder along with a second-round pick in 2022 via Brooklyn.

“Welcome him back,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of what happens next. “Bol left here on good terms. We all had good conversations with him. Strange things have happened in the NBA.”

NEXT

Blazers: In Washington on Saturday.

Nuggets: Hosted LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

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