The Portland Trail Blazers controlled the tired Denver Nuggets for almost all 48 minutes, eventually pulling away for a 20 point victory. The returning Nicolas Batum was the story of the night, scoring a career-high 33 points off 9 three-pointers. Meanwhile, Raymond Felton went down with a left foot sprain in the third quarter. The Blazers state that X-rays were negative, but his status is unknown. We'll have updates as they arrive.
Besides the amazing Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge finished with a pedestrian 29 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Gerald Wallace and Wesley Matthews contributed 17 and 11 points, respectively. Marcus Camby only scored 4 points, but Hoovered down 20 rebounds. Jamal Crawford's team-high 8 assists made a huge difference.
The game opened with one team looking energetic, and one team tired. The Blazers jumped to a quick lead, based off a fast pace, some good defense, and a bunch of jumpers. However, the jumpers stopped falling, and the game slowed down. Denver kept the game close, with a last-second block preserving a 7 point deficit.
The second quarter started right where the first left off. Batum and Matthews hit threes, then the defense prevented any easy Denver shots. Then Nic caught fire. Harnessing the strength of his bruised knee, he nailed three 3's in quick succession, followed by a driving layup, causing the lead to reach 15. However, Denver wouldn't go away, as Lawson and Nene fought back. Unfortunately, Portland helped, as the Keystone Cops theme reappeared. The Blazers only led by 6 at halftime.
The Blazers immediately give up 4 points in a few seconds to nearly cough up the lead, but Wesley Matthews stops the run with a three. I'd like to say the Blazers dominated from there, but honestly Denver seemed to run out of steam, as Portland upped the D and regained a double-digit lead. Felton left due to injury, and Jamal Crawford didn't miss a step. Soon, Batum and Aldridge helped push the lead to 18, but Denver scores the last 4 points of the quarter to stay within 14.
Denver makes their last push to start the fourth quarter, quickly cutting the lead to 12 within 90 seconds. But Batum (again) and Wesley increase the lead to 17, including a layup on a badly broken play. Denver begins a last-ditch run, but Jamal Crawford, who had been deferring to Batum all night, took over to close out the Nuggets. Nic wasn't finished though, swishing two more three-pointers as the crowd chanted his name. Down by 25, George Karl simply shrugged and tossed the white towel.
Check out the box score, then stay tuned for Dave's recap and Ben's media row report. The next game is Monday, hosting OKC. -- Tim