Game 24 Recap: Portland Trail Blazers 117, Denver Nuggets 97

In a Nutshell

Nicolas Batum makes quite the splash upon his return, connecting on 9 three-pointers and leading the Blazers in a rout of the lethargic Nuggets.

Game Flow

This game opened with both teams mirroring each other. First the combatants dueled with jump shots, then shifted weapons to the fast break. In each case the results turned out similar. The Blazers made their jumpers while the Nuggets fell short. Portland got back in transition while Denver waved at the ball. Danilo Gallinari had a dozen-point first period but LaMarcus Aldridge scored 11 himself while Gerald Wallace poured in 11 himself. Portland's two forwards beat Denver's one and with the rest of the game also going Portland's way, the Blazers took a 33-26 lead into the second quarter.

Normally the second period would see the opponent bench take advantage of Portland's but Nicolas Batum was having none of that. In his first game back after a knee sprain he set the world on FIRE. He opened up with 4 three-pointers and then added a nifty layup off of a LaMarcus Aldridge assist to score a cool 14 in the period. Denver had no answers. The Blazers got up by a dozen with 1:30 left in the period before they went brain-dead, turning over the ball and borking layups to give the Nuggets 3 scoring possessions in 90 seconds. The Blazers nursed their 59-53 lead into the half.

Were this a road game the Blazers would have faded in the second half. But Portland was at home and Denver was playing their third game in as many nights. Plus Aldridge had a target fixed on this win and Batum was just getting warmed up. They added 8 and 5 respectively to their already-impressive point totals in the period. Only turnovers and losing Raymond Felton to a sprained ankle marred the quarter. Normally Felton going down would have been a serious blow but against the lagging Nuggets the Blazers simply kicked it into high gear and avoided their point-guard-less halfcourt offense whenever possible. It worked. The lead ballooned to 14, 85-71, at the end of the third.

After that the Nuggets were done. And who can blame them? It must have felt like the 12th quarter, and it showed. Portland left the hot hands in long enough to push the lead to 25 and then invoked the mercy rule, bringing in the deep bench. The Blazers end up winning by 20, 117-97.

Take-Away Points

When people value Nicolas Batum, games like this are what they're talking about. You also got to see how hitting outside shots makes the whole offense easier. What's funny is that the Blazers played a mini-version of Nuggets Style too, keeping tempo high and probing the paint. If there was something this team did wrong outside of turnovers tonight, I'm hard-pressed to find it.

Individual Notes

We're not worthy of Aldridge and Batum. Everybody just bow now.

LaMarcus Aldridge started the game peppering in outside shots and then moved inside to demolish the Nuggets' spirit. He ended up 13-19 with 29 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals plus a really scary block.

Nicolas Batum ate Les Wheaties tonight and then submitted his nomination for weird stat line of the year. He shot 11-19 overall...so far so good. But get this. 9 makes and 15 attempts came from beyond the arc. He shot 15 threes and only 4 shots inside 23 feet tonight. And he scored 33 points. What's more he had 3 steals and a block but no rebounds and no assists. If he does that again in the next three years the post-game beers are on me.

Marcus Camby had the usual Camby night. You know...20 rebounds. Ho hum. Oh yeah, he had 2 blocks and 2 steals too.

Oh, did I mention that Nene had 4 points and 4 turnovers on 1-5 shooting with only 2 rebounds? Some Blazer big guys were looking for an extra cookie tonight.

Wesley Matthews looked more active in the offense than usual in a game when he didn't get a lot of attempts. He shot 4-8 for 11 points but also had 5 assists. Of course it doesn't hurt when "Feed LaMarcus!" and "Pass to Batum!" are both correct answers.

Raymond Felton did his usual early aggression thing and then settled nicely into the game. He ended up 2-6 for 6 points and 4 assists in 24 minutes, which is to say that he knew enough to keep the scorers supplied and not force his own offense. Had the Blazers not succeeded with the fast break after he was hurt they would have been in deep water. It's a reminder that however one feels about him, he is the only viable big-minute point guard on this team right now.

Jamal Crawford stepped into Felton's shoes to the tune of 8 assists but if assists can be called scary, he had some scary ones. The number shows his unselfishness and that things were rolling Portland's way tonight, but this guy is a scorer first and foremost. He just makes me itchy at the point, particularly when trying to negotiate any kind of screen play.

Everybody else had nice games. Kurt Thomas is steady. Elliot Williams is springy. You know all this.

Fun With Numbers

  • Blazers 15-33, 45.5%, on three point attempts. Normally if Portland took 33 threes in a game you'd kill them. But it'd be too late because they'd have already done themselves in. Denver just brings out something in them. Thank you, Nicolas Batum. Nuggets 5-22, considerably less than 45%.
  • Blazers 53.5% from the field, Nuggets 44.3%.
  • Those numbers overcame a 12-point deficit for Portland at the foul line, which would be expected since it was the Nuggets and because the Blazers took a good 40% of their shots from Gresham.
  • Blazers stayed even on the boards, pretty even on fast break points. They lost by 10 in the paint but won by 10 in points after turnovers.

Final Thoughts

This would be a good candidate for Game of the Year so far. Would another one against Oklahoma City on Monday be too much to ask?

You can read about how Nuggets fans want to forget this game at Denver Stiffs.

Nuggets vs Trail Blazers boxscore

Your Jersey Contest scoreboard and the ever-so-fun form for Monday's game.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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