The Blazers were led by Robin Lopez (18 points, 9 rebounds), Damian Lillard (17 points, 3 steals), the returning LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) and Nicolas Batum (9 points, 6 assists, a career-high 16 rebounds).
If you missed the game, you didn't miss much. It was 4 quarters of the Blazers pulling ahead by 8-13 points, only to see the Nuggets tighten it to 5 or 6. Then the Blazers built it up again. Unsurprisingly, a late Denver run made the final margin 6 points. Despite vocal concerns during the broadcast, it never seemed like the result of this game was in doubt at any point. If you were going to miss one win this season, this was a good one.
The Blazers struggled all night from the three-point line (5-27 overall), which helped keep Denver close. After a monster rebounding night from the Nuggets in the previous game, the Blazers returned the favor, with 52 to Denver's 40.
Denver's defense kept the Blazers off-balance much of the night. This was the "we want to beat this team once!" defense, both focused and scrappy. Lillard was pressured all night, and if he broke the double-team, the Nuggets scrambled to force a tough shot. However, they regularly overplayed on defense, which left two openings: Robin Lopez (who scored a team-high for Portland) and three-pointers. If the Blazers had shot a normal percentage from downtown, this game would have been even more boring.
First Half: Despite Aldridge's return, this was a fairly boring first half. Portland pulled ahead early, and kept the lead mostly in the high single digits. Not wanting to lose twice to the Blazers in one week, the Nuggets came out working hard to cover for their depleted starting line They regularly doubled Lillard as soon as he got the ball, and pushed hard on the pick and roll. That also led to plenty of fouls, so despite poor shooting, the Blazers made their living at the foul line. The half was capped with a nice Blazer hook-and-lateral out of a timeout.
Portland 56, Denver 48
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by southern oregon
Third Quarter: Every time Portland pushed the lead near 10, Denver nailed a three-pointer to keep the game within reach. But when a quick 5-point Blazer run gave them an 11 point lead, Denver called time. As the Blazer bench came into the game, the Nuggets pulled back within single digits with more three-point shooting, but couldn't put together a string of points to get closer. Mo Williams swished a jumper at the end of the quarter to keep the double-digit lead.
Portland 84, Denver 73
Coolest thing about Lillard is that he will continue to get better year after year. I can say that with confidence.
Fourth Quarter: More of the same, as Denver took advantage of the bench to make it a 6 point game, forcing a timeout. A Will Barton three-pointer provided some cushion, and while Denver missed and missed, Portland gave up dumb turnovers and couldn't take advantage. The lead was 9 at the halfway point, and was still the case a few minutes later. The problem was, Portland simply could not score down the stretch. With 2:20 left, Denver free-throws cut the lead to 8, hit one more to cut it to 7 with 1:28 left, then one more for 6 with 50 seconds left. ButDenver simply ran out of time, as the Blazers played out the clock for a relatively easy victory.
Another day off for the Blazers to rest, then the Los Angeles Lakers are in town Monday night. The last game was a doozy.
Stay tuned later tonight for Ben's Media Row Report.
Head here to check out the jersey contest for the Laker game!
Gameday Thread Comments of the Night:
Thanks to everyone who participated in tonight's Gameday Thread! As always, here are the most popular comments, based on the number of Rec's from their fellow fans: