In a Nutshell
The Blazers turned the game into a race in the first half but then blew a tire with a couple seconds left in the second period and never recovered.
The Denver Nuggets tipped their hand at the start of this game, pounding the ball inside to whichever big man wasn't guarded by LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers sent extra help every time a big touched the ball in the paint, trying to counter size with quickness. Portland's defensive strategy worked about 45% of the time. Denver's offensive strategy prevailed the other 55%. That doesn't seem like much of a margin, but it was enough. Denver scored 25 in the period. The Blazers also tried to employ speed and fluidity on the offensive end, passing the ball like it was a 7th-grade love note. That also worked in a sense, as Portland sprinkled in the occasional hot cut amongst the bevy of open jumpers. But in the end the Blazers were still shooting outside against a Nuggets team getting the ball inside. LaMarcus Aldridge provided effective counterpoint to the trend, but that wasn't enough to get the Blazers over 21 in the quarter.
The second period was far more successful, as Aldridge did his best Dwight Howard impression, rebounding and blocking everything in sight. He smacked the Birdman so hard that ink flew...two times over. (Of course that guy has Skittles sweat anyway, so who can tell?) Portland's smaller players stopped shooting deep and drove instead, getting better quality looks. Denver's guards got sick of the big men hogging all the credit and started lofting jumpers of their own, robbing their offensive of its brutality and effectiveness. The Blazers had the game within 2 on a Rudy Fernandez three with 25 seconds left. Then nastiness ensued. J.R. Smith rang up his own three with 1.8 seconds left. Then Andre Miller, flashing back to his Mile-High Days, inbounded the ball straight to Arron Afflalo, who promptly scooted in for the layup. Five points in less than 2 seconds turned a 2-point deficit into 7. The Nuggets led 48-41 at the half.
A bad night on offense got worse for the Blazers in the third, as Denver went for broke and just sent everybody into the lane whenever Portland got the ball near paint. Not even Aldridge, heretofore acquitting himself well, could break their wall down. Low-20-point quarters turned into 17. Meanwhile the Nuggets got the ball inside again, plus they ran a little off of longer Portland misses. They scored 30 and that was the ballgame. The fourth period didn't matter. In fact nothing past the third minute of the third mattered. The Blazers, short-handed, tired, and perimeter-reliant, weren't able to put up any kind of fight. Denver wins in a blowout, 95-77.
LaMarcus Aldridge had a first half for the ages. He was brilliant on defense and aggressive all around. He finished the game 9-17 with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 blocks. The only quibble with his game was his 0-0 free throw line. He needs extra points. But there's only so much attacking one can do against the world.
Nicolas Batum showed some prolonged aggression on defense and also hit 6-11 for 14 points. Good game for him.
Andre Miller didn't have good targets to pass to and couldn't hit his shot. As the game progressed and motion got less frequent his game went downhill. 4-11 for 9 points with 5 assists in just 25 minutes.
Dante Cunningham and Wesley Matthews were non-factors save for a few attempts at defense. Each played more than 30 minutes, had 6 points, and registered no other crooked numbers across the stat line. Matthews only took 8 shots.
Rudy Fernandez played another energetic 20 minutes but, like Miller, had a hard time weaving any continuity. He scored 11 on 3-7 shooting, 3-4 from distance, and had 4 rebounds.
Just about everything else was garbage time play. Meh.
Stats of the Night
- Blazers only 2 fast break points and only 30 in the paint
- Nuggets 26 free throw attempts, Blazers 8
- Portland 40% shooting.
Odd Notes and Links
Somebody threw a Chapstick-like object on the floor in the second and Mike Barrett made a pretty big deal about nobody picking it up in case it was explosive. The times we live in...
Trail Blazers vs Nuggets boxscore
Hear the victory chortles at Denver Stiffs
See tonight's Jersey Contest scores here and enter the next form here.