The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard's 31 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds with support from Robin Lopez (12 points, 10 rebounds, and a game-changing 7 blocks), Nicolas Batum (16 points and a dagger three) and Mo Williams (14 points). Dorell Wright also held down the fort for Aldridge, shooting 3-5 for 12 points with 2 assists and a big steal late in the game.
Update: Blazers forward Thomas Robinson suffered a strain of the patella tendon in his left knee and will be a game-time decision on Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets. Here's video of Robinson's injury.
First Quarter: Against an also-injury-plagued Nuggets squad, the Blazers were aggressive early, forcing two fouls on Timofey Mozgov and taking a 9-point lead on a combination of three-pointers (6-8 in the quarter) and shots in the paint. Denver held ground, but Mo Williams came into the game and took over, scoring repeatedly to put the Blazers ahead by as many as 13 as the Nuggets struggled at both ends.
Portland 32, Denver 21
Robinson actually had trouble grabbing boards early in the Minnesota game .Once he gets in the groove he goes bananas.
Second Quarter: Against the end of the Blazer bench, Denver went on an immediate run, as they continued to crash the offensive boards against the small lineup. Meanwhile, the Blazers turned the ball over repeatedly and didn't score a point for 4 minutes. Denver pulled within 5 as Blazers Coach Terry Stotts brought all the starters back. However, Denver realized they could leak out in transition and steal easy buckets, as the Blazers weren't covering. At this point, Robinson seemed to hurt himself on a fast break and left the game.
The lead was cut to three, but Lillard led a run to push it back to 10. Just as it looked like they had control, the turnovers returned, and when compounded with terrible defense, the Nuggets cut the lead to 2. They stopped hitting shots though, and Lopez helped Portland keep a lead at the half.
Portland 52, Denver 45
Scientists calibrate absolute zero to Mo's shooting.
Third Quarter: Dorell Wright comes alive! He led a Blazer run to push the lead to a game-high 14, forcing a Nuggets timeout. They scored repeatedly after the timeout, but the Blazers took advantage of their poor defense to keep the lead in double digits, but Lillard took over, scoring 7 straight points to help push the lead to 18. The Blazer bench returned, and the Blazer lead started to vanish, with Denver scoring 8 straight points. A noticeably hurting Robinson was taken out of the game, and the Blazers held their lead to close the quarter.
Portland 82, Denver 69
Portland right where we want to be after 3.
Fourth Quarter: Neither team could get anything started, and when Will Barton took an ill-advised early shot, Stotts quickly called timeout while still up 12. The Blazers had chance after chance to close the game out, and took poor shots or turned the ball over repeatedly, going scoreless for 5 minutes and giving Denver life. Former Blazer JJ Hickson finished a three-point play to cut the Blazer lead to 8 at the halfway point. The Blazers simply couldn't score, with poor shots on every possession, and Kenneth Faried cut it to 6, forcing a Stotts timeout. After 7 minutes, the Blazers had scored 4 points, and the lead was 4. Portland's offense was a disaster, and Denver's rebounding advantage was apparent. Over the first 8 minutes, Denver had outscored Portland 14-4 to cut the lead to 2, and Lopez, the only Blazer rebounder, was playing with 5 fouls.
Lillard and Matthews hit 4 free throws to restore a 6 point lead with under 4 minutes left, forcing a Denver timeout. And afterward, Denver scored 4 quick points to cut the lead to 2. Lillard drove for a layup, and Denver was called for a loose ball foul on their possession. Matthews hit both free throws, and the Blazers still led by 6 with two minutes left. Portland again couldn't score, and Denver called timeout with 1:10 left, down 6 with the ball. They missed a three-pointer, but Hickson rebounded and dunked with 50 seconds left. Wright faked a three-pointer and passed it to Batum, who did launch one... and hit it! Portland had officially recovered, taking a 7 point lead with 40 seconds left. Randy Foye nailed a three on a broken play with 30 seconds left, and it became a foul-shooting contest. Lopez fouled out, and Portland held on with Victor Claver playing center.
A quick plane flight home, where the Blazers play the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow night. In the meantime, stay tuned for more analysis from Dave later tonight.
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