It's weird, it's ugly, but Blazers prevail
Nicolas Batum did a rather bang-up job of describing the Trail Blazers 101-93 victory over Denver Thursday night at the Rose Garden.
Weird. Ugly, said Portlands small forward from France, getting better with the English language almost by the day. We got the job done, but it was ... interesting tonight.
Ah, it was. The Nuggets misfiring from 3-point range was unprecedented in NBA annals, and still the visitors were in the thick of it until near the end of an eyesore of a contest by most standards.
We played through a lot of misery, Denver coach George Karl said.
The Nuggets (14-13) arent a good 3-point shooting team they entered the game ranked 25th in the NBA at .340, just a notch below Portland at .343. No team is as woeful, though, as the visitors from the Mile High City looked Thursday night, when they went 0 for 22 from beyond the stripe.
That shattered the all-time NBA mark this citys very own Trail Blazers set in missing all 20 3-point shots in a 92-74 win over Toronto just 10 days ago. Like the Blazers, the Nuggets made as many treys as a team of dead men only with two more attempts. No team in league history has missed more without making at least one in a game.
The best thing about tonight was (the Nuggets) beat our record of 0 for 20, said a smiling Nicolas Batum, who scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter for Portland (12-12). Were almost as happy about that as the win itself.
Batums coach differed with that opinion, though it may have been tongue in cheek.
I was proud of that record, because we won the game, Terry Stotts said. I was hoping wed keep that for awhile.
Stotts admitted it wasnt great defense that kept the Nuggets (14-13) at a goose egg from long distance.
They had a lot of threes they could have or should have made, the first-year Portland mentor said.
If you make threes, its a different game a totally different game, Karl said. I dont think anybody took a bad three ... if youre going to have that line out there, you have to use it ... you need to shoot around 33 percent, and we were far from that tonight.
Denver shot .388 overall from the field. With 74 points in the paint and 17 free throws, the Nuggets had only one basket from outside the paint an all-time NBA low. The one basket was Denvers last of the game Ty Lawsons 20-foot jumper with 38 seconds to go.
Thats amazing, Stotts said.
"We realized they werent making a lot of shots from outside, said Portlands J.J. Hickson, a stalwart once again with 18 points and 18 rebounds, his sixth straight double-double and 14th of the season.
The Blazers prevailed despite shooting .359 from the field and losing the battle in rebounds (59-50), while getting demolished in points in the paint (74-28) and fast-break points (31-7).
For anybody who talks about points in the paint, put this one in the books, Stotts said before adding, Sometimes you throw the stats out. Its not how well we play, but how we play.
Specifically, Portland won via a 42-0 edge on 3-point shots. The Blazers went 14 for 36 from downtown.
It helps when we make threes ... but we dont have a magic formula for winning, Stotts said. When we play together and can do whats necessary, we play pretty well.
Portland got its fourth straight win in the midst of this six-game homestand without the services of top scorer LaMarcus Aldridge. The all-star power forward sat out the game with an ankle sprained in Mondays 95-94 win over New Orleans.
We all took it upon ourselve individually and step up not to do anything out of the ordinary, but just do a little bit more and itll make up for L.A. not playing, Hickson said. We did a great job of that.
Lawson, Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer scored 13 points apiece and Andre Miller came off the bench for 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for Denver, which saw an end to its three-game win streak.
The rhythm of the game was not in our favor, and our guys seemed to be worn out a little bit, Karl said. I was surprised how it seemed like we were always huffing and puffing.
Portlands Wesley Matthews, who had played only 3 1/2 minutes in the previous three games due to a hip injury, contributed 20 points, four assists and three rebounds in 39 minutes. Matthews started hot, sinking a pair of threes in the first five minutes and scoring 10 points in the first nine minutes, but cooled, finishing 7 for 19 from the field.
Hes a gutsy player, Stotts said. He provides energy and passion at the defensive end.
When he makes the shots, thats another dimension.
Luke Babbitt came off the bench to play a key role for the Blazers. The third-year forward notched season highs in points (14) and rebounds (eight), sinking 4 of 7 from 3-point range before fouling out late in the game with his third straight game scoring in double digits.
His ability to make shots gives us a extra dimension, Stotts said. Denver went small a lot, so it was a game where Luke was able to have an impact. With L.A. being out, thats 38 minutes for somebody else to get. Luke took advantage of it.
The Nuggets trimmed what was an 18-point deficit in the second quarter to 78-75 with 6:16 remaining.
Then Damian Lillard 1 for 11 from the field at that point drained a 3-pointer. After a Javale McGee dunk at the other end, Batum sank another trey to make it 84-79. Millers driving layup for Denver cut the Blazers advantage to 84-81 with four minutes to play.
Portlands edge to 87-83 with three minutes to play, but the Blazers scored the next six points four of them by Batum to put the verdict on ice.
The most amazing thing, really, was that the Nuggets stayed in the game to the end despite their 3-point inefficiency.
When you miss like we were missing, Brewer said, its tough.
NOTES: Portland closes its six-game homestand Saturday night against Phoenix. ... for the Nuggets, Iguodala was 0 for 6, Lawson 0 for 4 and Brewer and Jordan Hamilton 0 for 3 apiece from beyond the arc. Leading scorer Danilo Gallinari was 0 for 2 on 3-point tries and 1 for 10 overall, scoring six points in 27 minutes. ... Lillard had 12 points and 10 assists for his third double-double but was 3 for 14 from the field 0 for 6 in the first half. ... Matthews sank a pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds left to push Portland past the 100-point line and give fans their Taco Bell promotional gift. I watched for the chalupa, Batum said. I talked to the crowd and told them, Hes going to miss it. But he made two. Good job, Wes. ... There were 190 shots thrown up in the fast-paced game 98 by Denver, 92 by Portland. ... rookie Joel Freeland started in Aldridges place, getting two points and three rebounds in 15 minutes. ... Portland has won six straight at home against Denver. ... this is the first four-game win streak for the Blazers since March 2011. ... Batum hit 5 of 9 3-pointers, matching his season high.