The Portland Trail Blazers struggled from the opening tip against the Denver Nuggets, falling behind by 19 but staying within reach. Unfazed, the short-handed Nugs easily held them off for a disheartening loss. The Nuggets won despite the absence of Rudy Fernandez, Nene, and Danilo Gallinari, while the Blazers lost Kurt Thomas to a mild concussion in the first quarter.
The Blazers were led by Jamal Crawford (21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (20 points, 9 reobounds), with support from Wesley Matthews (11 points) and Elliot Williams (10 points in an expanded role).
The Denver elevation may be high, but the Blazers were flat in the first quarter with turnovers and missed rebounds galore. Nate made an early substitution, bringing in Kurt Thomas for Marcus Camby. But in a freak incident, Kurt was accidentally kicked in the head while diving for a loose ball. He was helped to his feet, stumbled into Crash's waiting arms, and was helped to the locker room. From there, the Nuggets quickly built a double-digit lead. But the Blazers closed in late, ending a sloppy quarter down by 7. To sum up the quarter, Denver rebounded more of their own misses than the Blazers did (9-8).
The Blazers continued to stink it up in the second as Denver jumped to a 13 point lead, ending with a Nate timeout. But then the lead reached 16. From there, Crawford carried the team with 13 points, as the Blazers cut the lead to 8, only to see Denver end the quarter on a 9-point run to lead by 17.
The pain continued in the third quarter. For the fans watching on TV, I mean. Soon, the lead was 18, the Blazers still couldn't rebound, and Nate called another timeout. Afterward, the Blazers went on a 14-5 run to cut the lead to 9. However, again the Blazers struggled to close the quarter as the Nuggets lead by 14.
Elliot Williams came alive in the first quarter as the Blazers hung around, staying within 10 points toward the middle of the quarter. However, Denver kept answering with key buckets. Finally, the Blazers closed to within 6 on a Matthews three with 7 minutes left. However, again, the Nuggets found ways to keep just out of reach. Ty Lawson hit a huge three-pointer with under 4 minutes left, and the deflated Blazers never challenged again. Denver eventually out-rebounded the Blazers by 18, and by 10 on the offensive glass.
The box score is here. Stay tuned for Dave's recap, and we'll see you tomorrow night, as the Blazers return home for a big game against the Miami Heat. -- Tim