PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 20 points and 13 rebounds, despite sitting much of the first half because of foul trouble, and the Denver Nuggets spoiled the opening game of Portland’s 50th season with a 108-100 victory over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Will Barton added 19 points for the Nuggets, who also snapped Portland’s 18-game winning streak in home openers, the longest streak in league history.
Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 32 points and eight assists, and Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and 19 rebounds in his Portland debut.
Whiteside, acquired in an offseason trade with Miami, tipped in a Lillard 3-point attempt to help the Blazers to an 88-87 lead with just under five minutes left. But the Nuggets answered with consecutive baskets from Jokic and Gary Harris.
Jokic hit back-to-back 3-pointers to extend Denver’s lead to 97-90. Lillard landed a 3-pointer with 1:58 left to narrow the gap but the Blazers couldn’t catch up.
It was the first meeting between the teams since the Western Conference semifinals, won by the Blazers in seven games.
The Nuggets didn’t make a lot of changes over the summer, returning the nucleus of the team that won 54 games last season and earned the West’s second seed, ending a six-year postseason drought. The team’s biggest move was acquiring Jerami Grant from Oklahoma City.
Portland, meanwhile, has six new faces on the roster, including Whiteside, who started at center. The Blazers also picked up veteran big man Pau Gasol as they await Jusuf Nurkic’s return from a broken leg.
The Blazers finished 53-29 last season and clinched the West’s third seed, playing through to the conference finals for the first time in 19 years.
Jokic collected three early fouls and went to the bench with 8:15 left in the first quarter.
Rodney Hood hit a 3-pointer and made a free throw to give Portland a 19-7 lead. Lillard’s first points of the game came on a dunk that made it 21-16.
The Blazers closed to 70-69 on Lillard’s 3-pointer late in the third quarter and then tied it on Anfernee Simons’ free throw. But they didn’t regain the lead until Simons’ driving layup made it 74-73 and capped a 16-6 run going in to the final period.
CJ McCollum’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 79-73 and Portland held on until Jamal Murray’s 3 made it 83-all. Jokic’s jumper gave Denver back the lead before Whiteside’s tip.
Michael Porter Jr., the No. 14 draft pick in 2018 who sat out last season as he recovered from back surgery, did not play for the Nuggets.
Nuggets: Former Oregon center Bol Bol, the son of Manute Bol, warmed up with the Nuggets. A second-round pick, he signed to a two-way contract with the team.
Trail Blazers: Gasol, who is still rehabbing from foot surgery, did not play. … Lillard addressed the crowd before the game: “Rip City! Rip City! We would like to welcome you to our 50th season, and hopefully our best.” … The previous record for longest winning streak in home openers was 14, held by Boston from 1979-92.
Nuggets: Host the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
Trail Blazers: Kick off a four-game road trip against the Sacramento Kings on Friday.
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AP Only 2019