Game Notes: Blazers at Nuggets
Nene and Nuggets prevail over Blazers.
by Sulaiman Folarin / @sulaiman4real
With the win, though, the Nuggets were only one point short of getting free Tacos for the home fans who urged the team to get to 110.
In the first half, the Blazers outplayed the Nuggets leading one of two quarters and headed into the half with a slim 46-45 lead.
Matthews scored 17 of those points for Portland in the first half with 5-6 shooting, but then rolled his right ankle in the second quarter with 2:00 left in the half. He led Portland with 19 points.
He also had three steals before the injury as it seemed he was leading the Blazers to a potential win. But when Matthews went down, one could not help but think of the injuries on the Blazers already from Greg Oden to Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby.
“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.”
LaMarcus Aldridge, a legitimate All-Star this year, finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds. He was not putting out the same production of points as he had in the past games especially their last game at home.
On Tuesday night, Aldridge scored 40 points against the San Antonio Spurs at home, but could not repeat the same performance the following night. The Blazers had also just arrived Denver from beating the team with the best record in the League so maybe they were too tired.
“It’s tough to come in at 2 a.m. in the morning,” Aldridge said. “I’m not giving excuses for why we did not play well, but the altitude affects you so does the time we came in.”
When Matthews returned in the second half, he went down again, but this time clutching his knee and headed straight for the bench after making contact with Billups who nailed a three-point shot to start the third quarter.
“I hit his [Billups’] knee and every fiber in my body wanted to get up, Matthews said. “But I couldn’t.”
Nuggets went on a 7-0 run to start the second half to take a 52-46 lead, but Rudy Fernandez nailed a 25 foot three-point shot from the wing to cut into the lead. As quickly as the Nuggets took a six-point lead, it evaporated with Aldridge’s free-throw which tied up the game at 54 apiece with 9:14 left.
Once the Blazers lost Matthews, Aldridge stepped up to take charge like he had done in previous games for Portland. He scored 11 of his total points in the second half, but those were not enough.
The third quarter was also a seesaw battle, similar to the first half, as both teams traded leads nine times.
“The game in the first half was just slow. Neither team got a chance to break out and get a lead,” Anthony said. “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.”
But Billups took over the third to separate the Nuggets from Portland.
“We had a lot of chances to take control of this game, certainly in the first half,” Nate McMillan said. “The second half they got going. Chauncey started to knock down some shots.”
His 11 points in the quarter and Kenyon Martin’s buzzer beater dunk pushed Denver’s lead up to seven with a 77-70 third quarter finish.
With the Nuggets outscoring the Blazers 64-44 in the second half, the exclusion of Matthews for most part of that half — though he returned in the fourth quarter — played a huge role; because before he rolled his ankle, Denver could not stop him.