Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy

63°F

Portland

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 84%

Wind: 3 mph

  • 1 Sep 2014

    Mostly Clear 79°F 57°F

  • 2 Sep 2014

    Partly Cloudy 78°F 55°F


Its close again, but no cigar for Blazers

The last time Denver had visited the Rose Garden -- back on Dec. 20 -- the Nuggets set an NBA futility record by missing all 22 3-point attempts in a 101-93 loss to Portland.

"I guarantee we won't shoot 0 for 22 again tonight," Denver coach George Karl promised before Wednesday's rematch with the Trail Blazers.

The Nuggets were lousy from beyond the arc again Wednesday, making only 3 of 14 attempts to 10 for 25 for the Blazers. That's a 21-point disparity.

But Denver more than made it up with a 72-42 points-in-the-paints advantage, the biggest factor in a 111-109 victory.

"The 3-ball has killed us at times this year," Karl said afterward, "but sometimes paint beats 3-ball. Tonight, we got into the paint and scored a lot of points."

In the Dec. 20 game, the Nuggets had pounded Portland with 74 points in the paint. That's 146 in two games, a whopping amount by NBA standards.

"They had 78 against the Lakers" in a 119-108 victory Monday at Staples Center, Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "That's what they do."

The Blazers (26-31) hung in to the final possession, a missed nine-foot fadeaway jump shot by LaMarcus Aldridge as time expired.

Aldridge, who finished with 22 points, had sunk a 15-foot turnaround jumper to tie the game at 106-106 with 33.4 seconds left. Andre Miller's spinning left-handed layup put Denver back in front at 108-106 with 24.7 seconds on the clock.

On Portland's next possession, Aldridge's short jumper missed. The Nuggets rebounded and Ty Lawson -- a thorn in the Blazers' sides all night with 30 points and six assists -- converted a pair at the line to make it 110-106 with 13.0 seconds to play.

Damian Lillard's clutch 3-pointer cut the difference to 110-109 with 3.7 seconds remaining. Miller made 1 of 2 free throws, and it was 111-109 with 3.0 seconds to go.

After a timeout, Wesley Matthews inbounded to Aldridge, who got an open shot over Denver's Wilson Chandler, but the attempt to force overtime was short.

"I liked the matchup," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "I knew he'd get a good look, and he did. He just missed it."

Nicolas Batum -- who cut past Matthews with Denver's Andre Iguodala in his grill -- disputed Stotts' statement that the play was set up for Aldridge.

"I was the first option, but Wes couldn't get it to me," Batum said. Iguodala "denied me."

Lawson and Iguodala combined to score 59 points for Denver (37-22), which won its third straight game and for the 13th time in 16 outings. Iguodala, a racehorse in transition along with Lawson, matched his season high with 29 points to go with eight assists and six rebounds.

"It was great to see Andre have his breakout game of the season in terms of confidence," Karl said.

Lillard topped six Trail Blazers in doubles figures with 26 points. Aldridge added 22 and J.J. Hickson collected 18 points and 14 rebounds.

The Nuggets got out into transition for 22 fast-break points and scored heavily in the key area throughout the game. They shot .517 from the field, prevailing despite making only 3 of 14 3-point shots and shooting .581 from the foul line.

"We played a tough game, but we let them play the way they want to play," Portland's Nicolas Batum said. "They like to run and score inside. They did that. We kept fighting, but in the end, they made more plays than we did."

Denver got out in front 41-29 in the second quarter and was ahead 58-50 at the half. Portland reeled the Nuggets in quickly in the third quarter, though, and it was a battle from there, with 17 lead changes and 10 ties in the game.

The Blazers are now 8-2 in games decided by two points or fewer, 16-13 in games decided by six points or fewer.

"They have this magical belief they can come back and overcome tough circumstances against good teams with big leads," Karl said.

This one was not to be, though, leaving Portland 1-2 in three straight down-to-the-wire games against the Lakers, Boston and Denver.

"Our third good game in a row," Stotts said. "We've come up short in two of the three. I liked the way we competed in the second half. (The Nuggets) cause a lot of problems at the defensive end, but we stayed with it and put ourselves in position to win or go to overtime."

It was the best performance of the season for rookie Meyers Leonard, and it came on the occasion of his 21st birthday. The 7-1 center scored a season-high 13 points -- including successive dunks at the end of the third quarter to provide Portland with an 82-79 lead.

"Before the game, I was telling Joel (Freeland) and Kim (Hughes, the assistant coach) I really feel like I am starting to come along and understand the game better," said Leonard, who played 16 minutes. "Tonight I found myself in good position to score. I played like I'm capable of.

"I would have loved to get a win on my birthday. It's just rough. We've had three games in a row where we've really competed and played hard. It hurts when you lose the really close ones."

Lillard and Lawson put on an entertaining show in a battle of two of the NBA's premier young point guards.

"It was what I thought it was going to be," said Lillard, who made 8 of 14 shots from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and had four assists but also five turnovers in 37 minutes. "He was in attack mode the whole game, and I attacked him back.

"He's probably the fastest guard in the league. He uses screen-and-rolls really well. A few times he lined me up and took me. He played a good game. Their team played a good game."

A victory would have been a boost to Portland's fading playoff hopes.

"We needed to win this game and we came up short," Lillard said. "We played hard. We made a few mistakes that could have prevented (the loss). It's tough to come up short at the end of a game you really need to win."

Ever the good teammate, Lillard said he wouldn't have changed the strategy at game's end.

"I always put my money on L.A.," the rookie point guard said. "If we had to do it all over again, I'd probably do the same thing. That's our all-star, our best player, and that's his shot. I thought it was going in. I'm sure next time it will go in."

NOTES: Portland's next action is against Minnesota Saturday night at the Rose Garden. …

It was the first time in the last 13 Denver-Portland meetings that the road team emerged victorious. … Batum filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, nine assists, six rebounds, five steals and three blocked shots in 40 minutes. He also chased Lawson down and swatted a fast-break layup attempt into the fifth row in the third quarter. … The Nuggets' starting small forward, Danilo Gallinari, sat out his second straight game with a thigh injury. … Hickson registered his 31st double-double of the season, ranking fourth in the league in the category. He has double-doubles in all three games against the Nuggets this season. Hickson was 5 for 9 from the field, extending his franchise record for games shooting 50 percent or better to 20 games. He ranks fifth in the lead in field-goal percentage at .573.