Denver lead for most of the game, by as many as 14 points in the second half, but slowly let Portland back into the game. Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler played great, as usual, but foul trouble from Timofey Mozgov and lack of point guard support from the bench eventually did the Nuggets in. LaMarcus Aldridge lead all scorers with 39 points. He also lead all rebounders with 11 rebounds. Lawson had 24 points and 13 assists while Wilson Chandler also accumulated a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Denver starter the game strong. A balanced attack from the Nugget offense shooting over 60% from the field opened a 31-23 lead. The defense limited the Blazers from whipping the ball around for open shots. Aldridge had 14 first quarter points, but one man was not going to defeat a full team attack. When Lawson was subbed out for Nate Robinson, the offense ceased to be effective. All of Robinson's 5 minutes came in the second quarter, and the Nuggets lead thinned out because of it. Nate Rob went 0-5 and the Nuggets built up the lead once the starters returned from the bench. Relying on the starters early is fine, but without any relief throughout the game it becomes that much harder to close out teams. On the second night of the back-to-back, this team cannot win with Ty Lawson playing 43 hard minutes of basketball.
At the half, Denver held a 6 point lead. They had held Portland to 0-7 from three. The Nuggets had matched the Association's best rebounding team at 21 boards. LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points, but no one else was causing damage for the Blazers.
In the third quarter, the Nuggets started turning the ball over and the Trail Blazer threes started to fall. Portland went on a 12-0 run in the third, but Denver cauterized the wound by finishing the third on a 7-2 run of their own. Heading in to the fourth quarter, Denver had to stand pat to secure victory.
Unfortunately, tired legs reared their ugly faces. Denver's jump shots stopped falling in the fourth and a key turnover by Ty Lawson in the final minute proved costly. With four seconds remaining in the game and the game tied at 103, Portland inbounded a pass from underneath their own basket to Aldridge at the free throw line. He was heavily covered and dropped the ball into Robin Lopez in the restricted area. J.J. Hickson overplayed the pass and Robin Lopez dropped in an easy layup with just over one second remaining. Denver's ensuing inbound pass to Danilo Gallinari only resulted in a long contested three pointer in vein. Portland had overcome what was a 90-80 score in the final period to win 105-103.
If we're going to give up a layup with one second remaining, I'd rather go down with our $50 million player defending Sideshow Bob.
Denver needs someone more reliable than Nate Rob as a backup point guard. I know he can be a microwave, but this team has too many offensive tools to sit back and wait for Robinson to shoot five shots before catching fire. He isn't getting it done and is placing too heavy a burden on Ty to carry the offense.
Former Nugget Steve Blake shot 100% from the field, including 3-3 from beyond the arc. Wesley Matthews was contained only shooting 1-10 from deep, which is just what the doctor ordered. Perimeter defense didn't cost Denver tonight, the interior defense did. Look no further than Hickson's 31 minutes and -12 +/- stat line.
Denver has built up leads in the last two games and squandered both. Tonight they weren't lucky enough to play a team of greenhorns who don't know how to win. I expect a bounce back game on the road against Washington on Friday. Denver can play with anyone on any night, but to make the top eight in the Western Conference they need to start finishing against the Association's best teams.