Jusuf Nurkic had a chance to play his former team, the Denver Nuggets, for the first time since being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers on February 12th. As one would expect, he played with a little extra and ended up having the best game of his career.

In Portland’s win, Nurkic scored a career-high 33 points while also grabbing 16 rebounds, blocking 3 shots, and dishing out 2 assists. The former Nugget played with a chip on his shoulder as he had something to prove to his former team. He wanted to show them they made a huge mistake that could cost them a shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

After the win, Nurkic wished the Nuggets a “happy summer” in his postgame interview as he walked off the court in front of the home fans at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. As he laughed this off, it was easy to tell how great this win felt considering Denver traded him to a team they were competing with for a playoff spot.

After things settled down a bit and the team was back in the locker room, Nurkic claimed the game was “not really personal,” but everybody knows this was more than just another game for the Bosnian star. This was a chance for him to show the Nuggets what they are missing out on, an opportunity he did not let slip through his fingers.

With the remainder of Portland’s schedule seeming to be far easier than Denver’s, Nurkic’s prediction of the Nuggets missing out on the playoffs will likely come true, and they will spend the remainder of the summer questioning why they let go of their backup center. This makes for a tough offseason as a chance to make the playoffs seems inevitable.

The bottom line is that Nurkic has excelled with the opportunity to play more minutes with a franchise that needed him to play a larger role. Nurkic’s success comes as little surprise to anybody who watched him grow while in Denver, setting a start for his current success. The fans in Portland love their new star and he seems to love playing there, creating a dynamic that could be lethal for years to come.

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