Blazers Conquer the Nuggets: 97-80

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Wesley Matthews led the Portland Trail Blazers to a nice Rose Garden win against the Denver Nuggets. After a slow start, Coby Karl helped Wesley and the Blazers pull away from Denver and hide, keeping the Nuggets at bay with key shooting and passing.

The Blazers were led by Wesley Matthews, who scored 19 on 7-12 shooting. LaMarcus Aldridge looked much better tonight, scoring 14 (also on 7-12 shooting). The story on the rooks got interesting: Nolan Smith (9 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds), starting for the injured Damian Lillard, settled in nicely with the starters, but Coby Karl (11 points, 5 assists) had a memorable night that will be sent by his agent to other teams. Joel Freeland (8 rebounds) and Victor Claver (13 points) both looked solid, Meyers Leonard had a quiet night but two huge dunks, and Will Barton got a few minutes to run.

In the first quarter, Aldridge showed signs of life, but the Blazer teams defense did not. Despite some nice individual D by Matthews, Denver had their way around the hoop throughout. Nolan started out slow, primarily dribbling the ball up court then passing off. But a late 12-2 Blazer run, led by a Coby Karl 4-point play and a beautiful alley-oop Leonard dunk, brought the crowd to their feet and left the Blazers with a three point lead.

All going to George Karls plan. Coby will have a great game and Portland will overpay him. -- BRoyinthe4th

After a crazy end to the first, the second quarter slowed back to a crawl.The Blazers turned up the D a little, and both teams couldn't hit a bucket. Nolan and Wesley combined to push the lead to 6 at the six minute mark. Nolan found life from there, hitting a three and improving his distribution as the quarter continued. Then Wesley took over. Jumper. Layup. Three-pointer. 11 straight points later, the lead was 14, then a Babbitt three made it 17. The crowd was on their feet, as the quarter closed with a 15 point Blazer lead.

At this rate, Barton is going to have to drop 70 in the 2nd half -- Zelonius1110 (after Will scored 2 first-half points)

The second half started with more cheering, as a Batum-to-Aldridge fast break dunk gave the Blazers a 20 point lead. Denver fought back through the rest of the third quarter, having only cut the lead to 16 with three minutes left. As the clock wound down, the bench struggled to score points, letting the Nuggets keep the door open. Morrison had a tough stint, as he fouled against the shot clock and gave up a wide-open three, without scoring at the other end. The Blazers held a thirteen point lead at the end of the quarter.

One of the unspoken stories this preseason is Aldridge's new hustle. He really is going after loose balls and rebounds harder this year, while also setting much improved screens. -- sabonis11

Coby Karl's three-pointer helped the Blazers bench maintain their lead early in the fourth, as the teams played back and forth for the next half-quarter. Morrison settled in nicely, hitting a three, getting rebounds and even setting up another alley-oop to Leonard. Denver's (mostly) bench furiously attempted a comeback as the clock wound under 4 minutes. Claver saved his own turnover, leading to a seated assist for a Nolan jumper to maintain their lead. But just as Denver closed to within 8, a Claver three sealed the win. Luke Babbitt added the dagger.

The box score is here. Stay tuned for Dave, then Ben's first report from the Rose Garden this season. The Blazers are back in action Friday night, at home against Golden State. -- Tim

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