The Blazers showed a solid team effort tonight, with different players carrying the load at different times. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 with 9 rebounds and 4 assists, sealing the victory in the fourth quarter. Damian Lillard add 18 points and 7 assists. Nicolas Batum exploded in the first half for 21 points with 5 rebounds and 3 assists, and Wesley Matthews dominated the second half, finishing with 21 points, 3 assists, and a career-high 12 rebounds.
Joel Freeland (5 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) also had a huge, game-changing game off the bench while Robin Lopez was in foul trouble. He showed why he earned the backup center role. Meanwhile, Dorrell Wright (8 points, 5 assists) had the best putback dunk of the young season:
And finally, in his first game playing against his old team, JJ Hickson was shut down by the Blazers. He had 5 points and 9 rebounds, and his night was summed up with one play:
The Nic Quarter (First): Unlike the previous game, the Blazers were ready to play from the opening tip. The primary offense came from an old friend: Batum, who scored 10 points in the first 6 minutes. Denver held their ground, leading to an entertaining back-and-forth quarter, despite both teams making some mistakes on defense. In the end, Portland was ahead.
Portland 24, Denver 23
Offense looking so much crisper than last night. Or is it just batum hitting his shot?
The Damian Quarter (Second): Damian Lillard said hello to Denver with some dominant plays, inside and out. Denver didn't have a response, and by the time Batum hit two more three-pointers, the Blazers led by 14. Denver struggled to keep up with the hot Blazer offense, as those same outside shots that missed in Phoenix started dropping by the truckload. They had that NBA-Jam-style flame on the basketball for a while. Lillard finished the quarter with a beautiful finger roll, but he and Robin Lopez each also carried three fouls into the locker room after a 40-point Blazer quarter.
Portland 64, Denver 50
Nolan Smith would NOT have airballed the free throw
by KingWes (After Faried air-balled a free throw)
The Wesley Quarter (Third): The Nuggets remembered they were playing at home, and came out aggressive. But just as they looked like they would close to within single-digits, Wesley Matthews came alive. In his NBA Jam moment, he had four consecutive three-point plays: 3 three-pointers and an and-1. By the time the crowd had a chance to check the scoreboard, the Blazers led by a shocking 21 points. Meanwhile Joel Freeland covered for the foul-beleaguered Lopez, and unexpectedly dominated the boards against Denver. Soon, the Blazer lead was 26 after a Mo Williams layup, and the Denver crowd sat stunned. The Nuggets closed the gap, but were regularly betrayed by their own poor shooting.
Portland 91, Denver 71
How are we winnin?
THE SEXY WAY
The LaMarcus Quarter (Fourth): The Nuggets knew they needed to mount a comeback quickly, so they brought in Nate Robinson. He'll either shoot you into or out of a game, and he quickly reduced the Blazer lead as the crowd came alive. Anytime Denver didn't make a shot, they had free throws, as a giant free throw disparity developed. By the 6 minute mark, the former 26 point lead was down to 10. Portland couldn't put the ball in the bucket anymore. Even Aldridge missed an unguarded layup. Meanwhile, the refs are missing obvious traveling calls on the Nuggets. Finally, Matthews hit a big three to push the lead back into double digits. From there, LaMarcus Aldridge took over, destroying the Nuggets with precise shooting and all-around nice play. His eight straight points was both the cherry and sprinkles on top of the sundae. The game ended with Allen Crabbe getting his first minute of playing time in the NBA.
Stay tuned for Dave's analysis of the game, and plenty from Ben. The Blazers finally get a home game tomorrow night, but it's against the San Antonio Spurs. -- Tim