For the second time in the past three games, the Portland Trail Blazers (32-11) have seen increased interest from the national media as another game was shown on TNT, this time at home at the Moda Center battling the Denver Nuggets (20-21). For the Blazers, they came in tonight with a day of rest after they went 2-2 on a grueling Texas road-trip. A split seems like a success for us fans but you know the team probably wasn’t too thrilled, having won the first two and then dropping back-to-back and were eager to get back to business.
It was ugly at first; the Nuggets were shooting from anywhere they pleased thanks to some not-so stellar Portland defense. At one point in the third quarter, Denver took a 15-point lead and seemed to have this game in the bag.
Until LaMarcus Aldridge got angry.
Blame it on not being named a starter to the All-Star Game, but Aldridge single handily steadied the ship, scored the final 15 points and saved the Blazers with a 44-point, 13-rebound effort to win 110-105 and snap a two-game losing streak.
The Blazers got off to a nice start as Wesley Matthews steals an outlet pass, steps behind the arc and drills a three. Both Denver and Portland play with more focus on offense and less attention to interior defense, so the Nuggets would find success in the paint to keep them from being buried. The Nuggets were also happy to give Portland turnovers, and the Blazers would make them pay. After a Denver timeout, the Nuggets continued to drive inside and eat up second chance points, a three-pointer from Anthony Randolph lift the Nuggets ahead 30-27 through the first 12 minutes.
Same old story: Blazer bench comes in and relax too much on defense, all while Nate Robinson suddenly channels his inner Ray Allen and drives home three bombs from the outside and suddenly the Nuggets are up by nine. It got worse from there, Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye joined the three-point party and the air at the Moda Center is sucked out. It appeared the Blazers would be on the road for another comeback as they were still down 67-59 at the half.
Frustration boiled over in the third when Denver came out of the half on fire, three-pointers here, open layups, lazy Portland turnovers, more three-pointers and – bam – the scoreboard reads a 15-point lead for Denver. Matthews and Aldridge slowly but surely trim away down to five and have one more quarter to work, down 91-86.
A 10-2 Portland run erupts early as Matthews schools the much shorter Robinson, the Blazers finally take the lead 95-94 with 10 minutes left. From there, the lead would bounce back and forth until Aldridge says “ENOUGH.” He’d hit a shot or make a couple of free throws, and Denver would promptly throw the ball away, commit an offensive foul or 24 second violation that always ended up in the hands of Aldridge. He ties his career-high at the foul line and goes on a tear, up until the final buzzer. His smile was ear to ear when he walked off the court with the game ball.
Who Was Hot
- The TNT crew strongly believes Aldridge was robbed of a starting position, and he showed America that they were so, so wrong: he sets a new career-high 44 points with 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks on 15-29 from the field and 14-17 from the foul line. He strongly deserved those “MVP” chants at the end, and don’t be surprised if this really thrusts him into serious MVP discussions next to Kevin Durant.
- Wesley Matthews was also the hot Blazer: 24 points, four assists and took advantage of the size matchup with Nate Robinson, he gladly gave the keys to Aldridge with the game on the line. Matthews also gladly placed Foye on a poser from a sweet back-cut alley-oop from Batum:
- Robin Lopez had fun going against JJ Hickson: 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
- Turnovers: Portland 9 – Denver 19
- Fast break points: Portland 16 – Denver 9
- Oh and Damian Lillard did this:
Who Was NOT
- The Blazers’ bench was lame, 13 total points with CJ McCollum leading the way with seven points. Denver’s bench was far superior: a whopping 40 points.
- Three-point field goals: Portland 4-18 (22%) – Denver 10-23 (43%)
- Points off turnovers: Portland 16 – Denver 28
ALL-STAR GAME REACTION
- TNT earlier today announced the starters for both the East and West, unfortunately for us; LaMarcus Aldridge was 60k votes short to nab a spot in the starting five. We can argue forever that this is outrageous, unfair and dumb but this is a prime example of playing in a small market with little (but growing!) national fanfare.
- I’ll be the first to say that fan voting needs to be retouched, or simply get rid of the whole thing and let players within the league do the voting. It’s a popularity contest and guys like Durant, LeBron, Kobe and Griffin are the face of the NBA. Last time I checked, Aldridge was third/fourth in the MVP ladder, but he doesn’t have the media exposure. To the average NBA viewer, Aldridge isn’t the sexiest player in terms of moves and dunk packages, but hell he’s the best power forward in the league. Charles Barkley knows it. You know it. I know it.
- Let’s go over the West starting five: Kevin Durant (Thunder), Steph Curry (Warriors), Kevin Love (Timberwolves), Blake Griffin (Clippers) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers).
- Two of those in my opinion are obvious choices: Durant and Curry.
- Bryant has played just six games this season and won’t even play in the ASG so that’s a waste of votes. He’s stated he would want to see Damian Lillard play, but look for James Harden, Tony Parker, Jeremy Lin or even Chris Paul to take over.
- Surprised to not see Dwight Howard? So am I, he’s a lock when it came to voting in a center but the league has gotten rid of that. He’s not having an MVP-like season, but he is the best center in the West.
- I would have rather replaced Griffin with Aldridge, simply because Aldridge has a better overall game than just dunking on everything and selling me Kia’s.
- Now the East: LeBron James (Heat), Dwayne Wade (Heat), Paul George (Pacers), Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) and Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers).
- The fact that Anthony is even starting is hilarious given how disastrous the Knicks season has been so far. Even Charles doesn’t want to watch the Knicks play, I would’ve replaced him with Chris Bosh.
- Have you seen the jerseys these poor guys will have to wear? If you haven’t, save yourself and don’t Google it.
Celebrate now because the Blazers are back to work on Saturday for another should be, primetime event where Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves come to Portland.