Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Denver Nuggets.
The Blazers return home after a tough four game road swing through the land of BBQ brisket. They picked up impressive wins in San Antonio and Dallas, but suffered a blowout loss in Houston. And two nights ago against Oklahoma City? Let’s just say that you do not want to make the Slim Reaper mad or he will swallow your soul. A 2-2 road swing isn’t bad though, especially considering it was four games in five nights against tough Western Conference teams.
Tonight is a national TV broadcast, y’all. This is Portland’s second stint on the TNT stage this week, so if you love to hear Charles Barkley talk about how a jump shooting team can’t win it all, you are in luck.
I hope the reporters on press row appreciate my Lando Calrissian cape—it’s time for the Wizard World Portland Comic Con and I am as excited as Robin Lopez about attending. My mom said I might get to borrow the minivan and drive there myself!
This Nuggets team is maddening, and no, not just because they have JJ “Defense?” Hickson on their roster. (Miss you and your wide open lanes to the basket, JJ!) Denver is a Jekyll and Hyde team, capable of both blowing out Oklahoma City and getting blown out by the Utah Jazz. The fluctuations are wild, and while it’s clear this isn’t the same team that finished third in the West last year—hell, they’ll be lucky to sneak into the playoffs—the Nuggets are still capable of putting up some solid performances.
Defensive lynchpin Andre Iguodala is gone, Professor Andre Miller has been benched indefinitely, Shaqtin a Fool star JaVale McGee is shelved with a stress fracture in his leg, and it was just announced that Danilo Gallinari will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing a second procedure on his balky ACL. See what happens when you legalize the pot weed, Colorado?
In great news for the Blazers, both LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard were invited to participate in USA basketball. Even if neither player makes the World Cup or Olympic squad, practicing with the best in the US will be a fantastic learning experience. And if they can wear outfits like this, even better.
In not so surprising news for the Blazers, neither LaMarcus Aldridge nor Damian Lillard were named All-Star starters. Aldridge is a lock to make the team as a reserve, and it's looking more and more likely that Lillard will also make it in. The reserves will be announced next Thursday.
Woah, the Blazers have a brand new comic book themed intro tonight. I knew this cape would pay off! Synergy!
11:14 - Wesley Matthews starts the scoring by pick pocketing Randy Foye near half court and then hitting a corner three after tracking down the loose ball. Nice start for the home team. 3-0 Blazers.
9:50 - Lillard just picked up an and one in transition after taking it right at Hickson. More importantly, that was Denver's third foul of the quarter. Portland appears to have a little too much size for the Nuggets to handle. 8-2 Blazers.
8:03 - Kenneth Faried is doing some damage on the offensive end—he has six early points—but looks out-matched by LaMarcus on the defensive end. Aldridge can get his shot easily over the shorter Faried, and should feast in the post. 13-8 Blazers.
6:24 - The Nuggets play at a pretty quick pace, but that doesn't hide their terrible defense. The Blazers have had what they wanted this quarter. Now, if only they could get a stop on defense. 15-14 Blazers.
4:56 - That's two fouls for Faried already, and two three-pointers for Matthews. More importantly, though—BILLY DEE WILLIAMS IS IN THE HOUSE. 19-14 Blazers.
3:23 - Man, Ty Lawson is quick. Mo Williams just went under a pick to try and get a better angle on Lawson's drive and Lawson still beat him to the rim. 21-17 Blazers.
2:05 - Not Joel Freeland's finest minute of play there. First, he was rejected at the rim by Anthony Randolph on a dunk attempt. Then, he was beat at the rim on an up and under move by JJ Hickson. Stotts needs time. 23-23 Tie.
0:49 - Wait, Anthony Randolph shoots threes?! Huh. That corner triple just gave Denver the lead. 28-27 Nuggets.
0:00 - LaMarcus has a nice eight point, three rebound line already. Too bad Anthony Randolph is doing one better with a nine point, three rebound line. Randolph has the last five Denver points, who take a slim lead into the second quarter. 30-27 Nuggets.
11:37 - Nate Robinson in the game! Nate Robinson with a foul! Naters gonna Nate. 30-30 Tie.
10:28 - CJ McCollum just pulled a veteran move by getting into the lane, pulling up short, getting the defender in the air, and jumping into him for the foul. The more he gets his feet wet, the more it seems like CJ might be a player in this league. 32-31 Nuggets.
8:59 - The Portland bench has been a bit of an issue tonight. Mo Williams is a -8 in under eight minutes, and Joel Freeland is a -7 in six minutes. Those guys need to tread water, not give up points. After this timeout the starters should be back in to try and get this back under control. 34-31 Nuggets.
8:34 - And just as I start complaining about the bench, Thomas Robinson picks up a steal, an offensive rebound, and a jumper all in succession. Okay, then. 34-33 Nuggets.
7:29 - That's back to back threes for Nate Robinson. If there's one guy you don't want to get hot on national TV, it might be Nate. Dude can swing a game all by himself. 40-35 Nuggets.
7:07 - Now it's Portland in foul trouble. That's five on the home team already, so every foul from here on out this quarter will result in free throws. 41-37 Nuggets.
6:36 - Another three for Nate Rob. You think he knows this is a national TV game? Nah, me neither. He seems totally oblivious of the limelight. 44-37 Nuggets.
6:10 - Blazers turnover, Nate Robinson jumper. Uh oh. 46-37 Nuggets.
5:05 - Now Wilson Chandler is getting in on the action, sinking his first three of the night. The Nuggets are rolling right now, and that rim is a large as a hula hoop. 51-39 Nuggets.
3:14 - Just as the wheels were coming off, the Blazers rattled off a seven point run. Batum has switched onto Ty Lawson, which is causing all kinds of problems for the Denver offense. 51-46 Nuggets.
2:44 - Make that a 9-0 run for Portland. If they can keep Nate Robinson from shooting, they may just win this game after all. 51-48 Nuggets.
1:32 - Denver can't miss from deep. Their last two possessions were Anthony Randolph (him?) and Randy Foye (him???) three-pointers, and they are 7-11 from distance already. Remember early in the season when the Blazers were priding themselves on their three-point defense? 57-50 Nuggets.
0:45 - That's not the way to end a quarter. After Matthews turned the ball over, he failed to get back in transition and ended up giving up a three-point play to Quincy MIller. 62-52 Nuggets.
0:36 - Lillard! Finally, he gets a one-handed poster dunk to fall. It seems like he's been trying to get one of those all season, and finally one sinks that is highlight reel worthy. And not because it was blocked by Victor Oladipo. 64-54 Nuggets.
0:00 - The Nuggets taketh, and the Nuggets giveth away. Two seconds left in the quarter, right after Ty Lawson picked up an and one, JJ Hickson fouled Matthews at half court. It was more of Matthews running into Hickson and throwing up the ball in an attempt to draw a foul, but for some reason the refs bought it. Three freebies for Matthews later (who has eighteen points for the half), and the Blazers deficit is back within double figures. 67-59 Nuggets.
11:46 - Well, the threes are still falling for Denver. Randy Foye opens the half with a bomb from distance. 70-59 Nuggets.
10:30 - Another three for Foye. It's going to be one of those nights. 73-61 Nuggets.
9:09 - Yep, another three for Foye. That last was a pull-up in transition from way beyond the arc. The Blazers need some defense in the worst way. 78-63 Nuggets.
7:41 - LaMarcus quiets things down a bit, scoring the last five Portland points. If Portland can string together a couple of defensive possessions in a row this will be a game again, not just a three-point showcase for the Nuggets. 80-70 Nuggets.
6:12 - The crowd is getting surly. Aldridge was hacked by two bodies down low, no call. Aldridge doesn't bark at officials that much, but he had some icy stares after not getting a call on that one. On the next possession, Wilson Chandler was lightly grazed and got the foul. 83-70 Nuggets.
5:45 - Another highlight dunk. After Batum was fouled and didn't get the continuation basket, the Blazers ran one of their package out of a timeout plays. Matthews threw down a vicious alley oop right on the head of Foye, who then proceeded to yell profusely at someone (Hickson?) for not rotating properly. Or at the refs for not getting a foul call. Or because he finally missed a three and was getting the anger out. Who knows, but he was not happy after that poster. 83-72 Nuggets.
3:46 - That's eleven points for Aldridge this quarter. He's carrying the Blazers right now, and I'm scared to see what the team will look like once he finally has to hit the bench. He can play all the minutes, right? 85-78 Nuggets.
2:14 - This is not Mo's night. He's hobbling around after going knee to knee with someone, turned the ball over on a fast break, and picked up his fourth foul in eleven minutes of play. That's a Meyers Leonard foul rate! 87-82 Nuggets.
1:30 - Aldridge is straight running this game right now. He's got fifteen points in the quarter, and Denver doesn't have an answer. Maybe they should try to have Nate Robinson guard him? Nothing else is working at this point. 89-84 Nuggets.
0:00 - Rough break. As time expired, CJ McCollum went up to contest a Wilson Chandler dunk and a foul was called right as the buzzer sounded. The refs reviewed the play to make sure the foul happened before time expired, which it did. Chandler hit both free throws, bonus points for the scuffling Denver team. 91-86 Nuggets.
11;30 - Thomas Robinson hit a free throw and the jumbotron flashed his Twitter handle. Is that a new thing? Can we not do that anymore? 91-88 Nuggets.
10:09 - In case you were wondering, Nate Robinson can't guard Matthews in the post. The Blazers just went to Wesley on the block twice in a row and he scored with ease both times. For the first time since the end of the first, the Blazers have the lead. Brian Shaw needs time, and for Nate Robinson to grow by about six inches. 92-91 Blazers.
9:21 - Wes went right back to work in the post on the next Portland possession. When a double came (Wesley commands a double-team in the post now?), he kicked it out to a wide open CJ McCollum for a three-pointer. Bang. 95-93 Blazers.
7:13 - That's two straight turnovers for Portland, and two straight fouls for Damian Lillard. Just when it looked like they were going to runaway with this one, the Blazers are stalling. 95-95 Tie.
6:34 - The Portland crowd is making sure TNT hears these "MVP" chants for Aldridge. He now has 31 points and 11 rebounds on the night. 97-97 Tie.
5:39 - Aldridge! He is electrifying this place right now. He followed up a jumper with a massive, get that ish out of here block at the rim. So impressive. If this is a message to the fans for voting in Kevin Love over him to the All-Star team, he's coming through loud and clear. 99-97 Blazers.
3:48 - Hickson stands no chance in the post against LaMarcus. That's two straight fouls drawn for LA—Hickson is doing his best to front Aldridge, but he's short enough that it's a simple entry pass over his head. Unfortunately, Aldridge was only able to convert on one of his four freebies. The last one rimmed out and was knocked out off of the Nuggets, so the Blazers keep the ball for one more possession. 100-99 Blazers.
3:09 - Oh, that's the problem. The free throw line is too close. Aldridge needs to shoot from twenty feet out, then he's golden. 102-99 Blazers.
1:09 - After Timofey Mozgov scored in the post (what?!) to give the Nuggets the lead, the Blazers went right back to Aldridge. Hickson fouled him almost immediately, but Aldridge was finally able to knock them both down. 104-103 Blazers.
0:43 - The Nuggets score to take back the lead, but then Mozgov fouls Aldridge trying to rebound a Matthews miss. Two more freebies for LA, who once again hits them both. He's not got a mammoth forty point, twelve rebound night. 106-105 Blazers.
0:25 - A stop for Portland! Ty Lawson missed a jumper over the outstretched arms of Batum, Aldridge grabbed the rebound and was fouled immediately by JJ Hickson. Aldridge to the line once again. With the deserved MVP chants raining down, LA knocked down both free throws. He just tied his career high with 42 points. 108-105 Blazers.
0:15 - That's the play Brian Shaw drew up? A contested, thirty-foot three-pointer from Randy Foye? Uuuuugly. Luckily for Denver, the rebound shot off and bounced out of bounds off of Aldridge. They'll get another shot at it. 108-105 Blazers.
0:08 - The Nuggets went for the quick two but missed. Aldridge grabbed the rebound (his thirteenth!), was fouled again, and knocked down both free throws. Career high forty-four points for LA! 110-105 Blazers.
FINAL: 110-105 Blazers. Behind possibly the best night of Aldridge's career, the Blazers outlasted the Nuggets at the end. That was an incredible watch. Aldridge deserves every accolade he's going to get for that performance.