The Nuggets fell behind the Trail Blazers early and never recovered the lead as they succumbed to Portland on the road 116-100. All five Blazer starters finished in double figures. LaMarcus Aldridge lead all scorers with 28 points and 9 rebounds. Wesley Matthews added 21 points for Portland. Kenneth Faried lead Denver with 19 points.
The difference in this game was three point shooting. Portland shot 16-31 from three while Denver finished 5-13. Thirteen attempts! Who is coaching this team, Byron Scott? Portland whipped the ball around the court to find open three point shooters while Denver slowly rotated. The Nuggs were able to create offense through drives into the lane, but by the second half the lane was clogged with Blazer bigs and their block tally steadily increased. Without the worry of outside threats from Denver, Portland was able to help defend against drives without consequence. Damian Lillard was a toreador and Ty Lawson a bull. While the bull was able to consistently blow past his opponent, Lawson was usually met by an angry crowd hungry for stew. The end result was too often a missed shot, blocked shot or turnover. Faried, Lawson, Timofey Mozgov, and JJ Hickson shot a combined 19-44 (43%) in the paint. Denver only mustered 14 assists to Portland's 27. The Nuggets offense lacks ball movement as the outside shooters are reluctant to release and the post players too eager to force shots. The only runs the Nuggets were able to pull off seemed to come against the Blazers' thin bench. Unfortunately all but one of Portland's starters played at least 34 minutes.
Some may question Coach Shaw's decision not to double team Aldridge, but I don't trust this team's ability to recover if the ball were to make it's way around to the uncovered man. Perimeter defense was a problem under George Karl and it is still a problem today. Faried had some nice blocks, but in the half court game his athleticism can't always make up for mistakes. He fell down twice against Aldridge banging down low and each time LA made him pay. Chris Kaman even looked like an offensive force, hitting multiple jump shots and drawing fouls down low. Denver played with both Mozgov and JaVale McGee in the front court on two occasions tonight, but the experiment was inconclusive at best.
On a positive note, Arron Afflalo shot the ball well and the Nuggets were able to get to the free throw line due to their ability to drive into the lane. The pace of the game felt as fast as any Nuggets game all season. Wilson Chandler shot 50% but only took one shot after the first quarter. There's the rub. Each game will have new heroes and new goats. Each night any one player could open our eyes and the very next game the same player could be accused of not doing enough. When the team is winning, the "no, please, you go first" mentality seems like a revelation but this team cannot win unless two or three guys step up and take control of scoring on offense with a strategy more synergetic than running straight into multiple defenders.
Portland shot better from three (16-31, 51.6%) than Denver did inside the paint (27-59, 45.7%) due to lackluster perimeter defense by the Nuggets and poor ball movement by the Denver Offense.