Short-handed Nuggets face Blazers, look for fourth straight win

NBA

The Denver Nuggets went from serious title contenders to a question mark when Jamal Murray went down with a torn ACL in his left knee.

Since losing their starting point guard they have won three straight, however, and they’re looking for their fourth in a row when they play at the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

Denver (37-20) has won three games in three different ways. The first one was a solid, clutch victory over Miami followed by a blowout win at Houston.

And then there was Monday’s big comeback against Memphis.

The Nuggets trailed by 12 with 3:52 left, rallied to tie it in regulation and rallied again in overtime before winning 139-137 in the second overtime.

Nikola Jokic continued to make his case for league MVP honors with 47 points and 15 rebounds.

“Life’s about a bunch of little moments,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the win. “I think Nikola’s got around 56 moments this year where he’s shown he’s the MVP.”

Denver won despite committing 24 turnovers, a product of not having its top two point guards. In addition to Murray’s absence, Monte Morris is expected to miss several games with a strained left hamstring.

The Nuggets added some help Tuesday with the signing of veteran guard Austin Rivers to a 10-day contract. Rivers appeared in 21 games this season with the New York Knicks before being traded to Oklahoma City, which then waived him.

Rivers is eligible to be on the postseason roster because he was not on an NBA roster after April 9. He would bring solid playoff experience to a team still harboring hopes for a deep postseason run.

He has averaged 7.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 45 career playoff games.

The Trail Blazers (32-25) are coming off a 113-112 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night. It was the third straight game they played without star Damian Lillard, who has been out with an injured right hamstring.

Portland has lost six of its past eight and has a difficult schedule in the last month of the season.

“We know it’s a tough stretch,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We know in these last 16 games, that’s coming down to the end of the season. I mean, we know the importance of them. We want to find a way to find our rhythm, find some momentum going into the postseason and win the games that we’re supposed to win.”

The Trail Blazers are trying to stay in at least sixth place in the Western Conference and out of the play-in round that includes teams 7-10.

Anthony is doing his part to make up for the absence of Lillard. He has scored in double figures in the past four games and is averaging 20 points in that span.

Portland should have center Jusuf Nurkic available against Denver. Nurkic sat out Tuesday’s loss with inflammation in his right knee.

–Field Level Media

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