Aldridge’s 39, Lopez’s game-winner finish Blazers comeback
The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Denver Nuggets 105-103 Tuesday behind 39 points from LaMarcus Aldridge. But the game’s deciding play was a brilliant call from Terry Stotts which resulted in Robin Lopez hitting a game-winning lay-up with 1.3 seconds left.
It was Aldridge’s only assist on a night when he essentially carried the Blazers with 39 points and 11 rebounds. In the first quarter he was the only player that was in a rhythm, scoring 14 of their 23 points in the quarter. He had 26 points at the end of the first half.
Aldridge dominated much of the game because the Nuggets both couldn’t match-up with him and did a poor job of getting in his face to make things tough. They elected to not double-team him so that the Blazers wouldn’t get it going from the perimeter. But they put Aldridge in pick and pops which allowed him to shoot jumpers almost completely uncontested. JJ Hickson had him for much of the game and Hickson closed the game at center.
Terry Stotts designed the final play for Lopez, who had a huge size advantage on Hickson. Stotts knows as much as anybody how easy it is to get shots at the rim when JJ Hickson is playing center. Lopez was 5-for-5 on the night.
Nicolas Batum wasn’t looking for his shot for much of the game but was aggressive in hunting shots for others. Even when Steve Blake was on the court with Batum, Batum was setting up the offense. Batum, whose struggled and only took six shots in 36 minutes but had 13 assists on the night.
He also had to take control of the offense because Damian Lillard was in foul trouble for most of the game. Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson both had great games, outplaying Portland’s backcourt most of the game. Lillard didn’t have a great night but he came alive in the second half which helped spark the Blazers.
The Blazers didn’t hit their first 3-pointer with 8:39 left in the third quarter when Steve Blake hit from the corner. Lillard had a four-point play in the 3rd when he went on a personal 8-0 run. The Nuggets closed the quarter strong again.
The Blazers finally started to get stops for extended periods too. The Nuggets went scoreless for over three minutes in the 3rd quarter.
Then the Blazers really shut the Nuggets down in the fourth quarter, holding them to 18 points. The Nuggets didn’t make it easy and had some timely shots. But Portland was able to make the right play at the end. And the Nuggets got a terrible look on the final play when Danilo Gallinari took a contested 30-footer.
- The Blazers get another road win to improve to 5-2 on the road. The Nuggets now go back to .500 at 9-9. So far the Nuggets are the only team with a .500 or better that the Blazers have beaten on the road. With the win Portland won the season series against the Nuggets.
- Steve Blake struggled early in the game but made up for it when it counted. He went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field including three 3’s for 13 points 24 minutes. Blake had to play a little bit more than usual and at different times than usual because of Lillard’s foul trouble. Once again he showed his steady hand has been needed off the bench at the point guard spot.
- Allen Crabbe didn’t have a great night shooting the ball but he really does look more comfortable with each passing game. He was pretty good defensively save for getting put up into the air by Danilo Gallinari. He also showed the confidence to call off Lillard and Matthews to run a pick and roll with Aldridge which led to an Aldridge bucket. He’s growing up.
- The Nuggets look so much better than they did when the two teams last met. They looked like the better team in the first half and Aldridge was the best thing Portland had going. If they continue to get better, they might hang around the playoff picture for at least a few months. It’s interesting to see that Kenneth Faried didn’t end the game and played only 23 minutes.
- The Blazers face the Indiana Pacers on Thursday before they go on a 5-game road trip.