Trail Blazers vs Nuggets Wednesday, 02/02/11 AT 06:00PM

Trail Blazers Torn Up By Nugget Trio

  1. Written by: Grant Lucas  / avg. rating: 4.0

    A mile up and with frigid weather surrounding the Pepsi Center, the Portland Trail Blazers (26-23) found its stroke from three-point range, but it was the Denver Nuggets (29-20) that got hot and stayed that way, shooting better than 52 percent from the floor en route to a 109-90 on Wednesday night.

    "We had a lot of chances to take control of this game, certainly in the first half," Head Coach Nate McMillan said. "We gave up 64 points in the second half... We had a chance, I thought, early in that game to take control of the game. I thought we did look a little fatigued, but you have to play through that."

    Wesley Matthews finished with 19 points - 17 of which came in the first half - but the shooting guard reinjured his ankle late in the second quarter, limiting his minutes in the second half. LaMarcus Aldridge contributed with 18 points and 9 rebounds, while Nicolas Batum added 17 points. Andre Miller chipped in with 11 points and 10 assists.

    "They got into a rhythm and we missed shots," Miller said. "That is all... We just move on to the next game."

    Denver saw three starters eclipse 20 points in the game, led by Nene's 22 points to go along with 10 boards. Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups ended the night with 20 points apiece, while J.R. Smith tallied 16 points off the bench.

    In a game that featured 22 lead changes and 10 ties, the Nuggets began to pull away near the end of the third quarter, closing the frame with a 7-0 run to take a 77-70 lead. Portland wouldn't reach within that margin the rest of the way, as Denver sealed its sixth-straight win against the Trail Blazers at the Pepsi Center against the Trail Blazers.

    The Trail Blazers shot 42.7 percent from the floor, but were outscored 32-24 and 32-20 in the closing periods, as Denver pulled away for the victory.

    "I definitely liked how we played in the second half," Denver Head Coach George Karl said. "I thought the second half we had a defensive-mindset led by [Kenyon] Martin. Offensively, everybody contributed in a quiet way."

    Portland hit seven three-pointers in the first half on nine attempts, but cooled off in the second half, missing six of its eight attempts. Denver, on the other hand, began to heat up from long range, draining more than half of its three-point attempts in the second half after starting 1-of-7 through the first two quarters.

    "The game in the first half was just slow," Anthony said. "Neither team got a chance to break out and get a lead. Every time we went up three or four points they came back, made some shots and tied it or went up to lead by one. At halftime, we just wanted to keep the pressure on them, pick the pace up, get out in transition a little bit. We made some shots, played some defense and opened the game up."

    The Nuggets owned the glass, outrebounding the opposition 48-33 and outmuscling Portland to a 42-26 advantage in the paint.

    Denver also capitalized on Portland miscues, converting 16 Trail Blazer turnovers into 16 points, while Portland was only able to turn 12 Denver giveaways into nine points.

    Portland missed five of its first six shots to open the game, with the made field goal being a Matthews three-ball, but Aldridge followed an errant shot by Miller to snap the drought and give the Trail Blazers an early 5-3 edge. Matthews soon added his second trey of the quarter, putting Portland ahead 8-5.

    Billups answered with a long range jumper of his own midway through the period, as Denver regained the lead at 9-8.

    After an alley-oop to Aldridge, Portland jumped back on top 13-10 with a downtown shot from Matthews.

    The Trail Blazers were just 5-of-14 from the floor, but hit three out of four three-pointers, while Denver converted four of its 11 attempts late in the opening period.

    Following a missed shot by Fernandez, Smith drove past a defender and reversed a lay-up home to even things up at 22 with less than 25 seconds to go in the quarter. The Trail Blazers tallied a technical free throw after a defensive three seconds to grab a one-point advantage, where the score would remain heading into the second.

    Portland finished the opening frame 4-of-6 from three-point land, led by Matthews' three triples. Matthews led all scorers with 11 points with Aldridge adding six. Anthony led the way for Denver with six points.

    Following a fairly slow start, the Nuggets picked up their efficiency, finishing the first quarter with shooting percentage of 53, compared to the Trail Blazers' 40 percent shooting.

    After a follow-up dunk by Chris Anderson, Batum fired a three-pointer from the wing but missed. Dante Cunningham hauled in the rebound and fed Batum again for a corner three which found the bottom of the net, as Portland went ahead 27-26. Patty Mills later added a trey of his own to put his squad up 30-28.

    Harrington sank a triple from the wing, then drove to the hole on the next possession for a lay-up to go up 33-30. Fernandez, however, penetrated the defense and fed Chris Johnson, who slammed it home to narrow the gap to one.

    Matthews slashed through the lane on a feed from Mills and canned a floater plus an and-one free throw, giving Portland a two-point edge.

    The Trail Blazers stayed hot from beyond the arc when Batum pocketed a corner three off an inbounds pass, improving Portland's mark to 7-of-9.

    Late in the second quarter, Matthews tried to step back for a shot, but rolled his ankle and collapsed to the court. He wouldn't return in the half.

    "I was scared," Matthews said. "This is the ankle that has been messed up. I heard it pop then it calmed down and I was able to go again... I'm going to fight. I am not going to let an injury slow me down. I am just going to try and help my team win."

    With less than 10 seconds left in the half and after Anthony hit a pair of free throws, Miller spun on his defender and freed himself up for a leaning jumper just before the horn, earning the Trail Blazers a 46-45 lead at halftime. Miller missed all seven of his shots before sinking the buzzer-beater.

    Matthews paced Portland and all scorers with 17 points, as the Trail Blazers recorded 13 assists on 14 field goals. Batum contributed 10 points and Aldridge had seven points, five boards and three blocks.

    For Denver, Anthony tallied 10 first-half points and three rebounds and Nene added nine points and six boards, as the Nuggets shot 46 percent from the field but made just one out of seven three-pointers.

    The Nuggets held a 27-18 advantage on the backboards, including a 7-4 edge on the offensive end.

    Billups hit a baseline jumper to help the Nuggets string together seven-straight points to start the second half, building its largest lead of the game at that point at 52-46. On the next possession, however, Rudy Fernandez cashed in a three-ball from the left side to cut the deficit to three.

    Nene received a pass from Anthony, but Joel Przybilla denied the dunk, leading to a three-point play by Aldridge at the other end. Later, Aldridge drilled a top-of-the-key jumper to put Portland back on top by four at 60-56, capping an 14-4 run.

    Midway through the third, Denver reclaimed the lead at 63-62 when Nene laid in a bucket through two defenders, but after a Portland timeout, Fernandez found space near the baseline for a mid-range bucket.

    Denver quickly responded with back-to-back alley-oops to Kenyon Martin and then Anthony to take a three-point lead.

    Billups then began to heat up, canning consecutive three-pointers to maintain a three-point edge, improving the Nuggets to a 4-of-7 mark from downtown for the half.

    Martin flushed an easy dunk just before the buzzer, as Denver held a seven-point lead at 77-70 at the end of three quarters.

    The Nuggets found their rhythm near the end of the period, increasing their shooting accuracy to 52 percent for the game, as Anthony and Billups registered 18 and 17 points, respectively, heading into the final period. Aldridge posted seven points in the third and had 16 at the end of three as well as seven rebounds.

    Spanning the third and fourth quarters, Denver put together an 11-2 run to jump out to an 81-72 advantage, polished off by a driving layup by Al Harrington. That string increased to 16-4 when Aaron Afflalo pulled down an offensive rebound and hit a fallaway jumper, as Denver held a 12-point lead.

    Portland began to struggle from the field, missing eight of its first 10 shots in the fourth before Batum buried his fourth three-pointer of the night to narrow the deficit to 92-82.

    Denver refused to cede any ground, however, as Billups hit a three-ball from well beyond the arc, increasing the Nuggets' lead to 102-86. Portland would never recover, eventually falling 109-90. Portland will pack up and head to Indianapolis, where the Trail Blazers will face off against the Indiana Pacers (19-27) on Friday night.

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