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Slow start dooms Trail Blazers in Denver

  1. Written by: KevinHudson

    The Portland Trail Blazers opened up their post-All-Star-break schedule with a 104-95 loss at the Denver Nuggets, Wednesday, in front of 15,715 at the Pepsi Center.

    "We just got outworked. That team came out and right from the start outworked us and pounded us on the boards, pounded us in the paint and wanted it more," said Portland coach Nate McMillan. "Mentally, we've got to get stronger on the road playing games like this and playing through situations like this."

    Denver (19-17) led 29-22 after the first quarter then poured it on in the second, scoring 33 points in the period to lead Portland (18-17) by 17 points at the break.

    Nuggets rookie Kenneth Faried started for the injured Nene and grabbed four first-quarter rebounds, all offensive, while adding eight points to help Denver to the early lead. Faried and Al Harrington each posted 13 points and 10 rebounds and Kosta Koufos added a game-high 11 boards as the Nuggets outrebounded the Trail Blazers 54-36.

    "Rebounding is all about effort. It’s about who wants it," McMillan said. "I thought they man-handled us in the paint and they were quicker to the ball and that’s a free ball when that ball is up on the rim."

    Portland trailed by as many as 19 points early in the third quarter but battled back to within nine points, 75-66, on a Jamal Crawford three-pointer with 3:45 remaining in the period. A 10-5 run by the home team to close the third quarter pushed the Nuggets lead to 14 points headed into the final stanza.

    Crawford led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-9 from long range, while adding five assists and five rebounds.

    Portland battled back again in the fourth quarter and pulled to within two possessions at 91-85 on a Wesley Matthews three-pointer, but would get no closer as Denver pulled away for the final margin.

    "We’re still searching it looks like. We’re not being consistent," said LaMarcus Aldridge of the team's performance. "We got back in the game tonight once we started playing hard and start playing together we just didn’t have enough to finish it.

    Aldridge scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Trail Blazers. Matthews led Portland's reserves with 11 points and Elliot Williams chipped in 10 points in 11:28 off the bench. Felton added a team-high seven assists in a reserve role.

    Ty Lawson led Denver with 18 points and a game-high nine assists while seven of the Nuggets nine participants scored in double figures.

    Portland returns home to face the Miami Heat, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at the Rose Garden. The game can be seen on TNT. 750 AM The Game and NBA Audio League Pass will have the play-by-play call.

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