Portland 98, Denver 92

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PORTLAND, OREGON (TICKER) Derek Anderson scored eight of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to their fifth consecutive win, 98-92 over the slumping Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets, who have lost six straight and eight in a row on the road, made just two baskets in the last five minutes and committed a pair of costly turnovers in the final 60 seconds.

After Anderson made a pair of free throws with 44 seconds left to give Portland a 95-92 lead, Chris Whitney dribbled out of the corner but ran into defenders. He tried a short pass to Donnell Harvey, but Dale Davis stepped between the Nuggets for a steal.

Whitney fouled out to send Davis to the line, where he made 1-of-2.

“We just didn’t get it done,” Whitney said. “I made a bad turnover at the end. There’s no excuse for that.”

The Nuggets gave the ball right back as Scottie Pippen drew a charge on rookie Vincent Yarborough with 31 seconds left. Two seconds later, Anderson made two more foul shots to ice the game.

“We struggled to make plays down the stretch when the game was in the balance,” Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “Other than that, it was a good effort. … I thought we did a lot of nice things offensively, sharing the basketball, pushing the basketball and shooting the basketball. We just couldn’t close it out.”

Denver did not have an answer for Anderson or Portland center Arvydas Sabonis late in the game. Sabonis exploited the Nuggets’ lack of interior size and experience to score six of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

“He does a great job at a lot of different things,” Anderson said of Sabonis. “We’ve got to make sure he feels comfortable. He’s always been good when he comes into the game. We’ve just got to make sure we use him a little more sometimes. We went to the veteran and it worked.”

Sabonis put Portland ahead to stay, 89-87, on a short banker with 4:20 left.

Denver committed 29 fouls to Portland’s 16 and suffered from foul trouble throughout the fourth quarter. Ten of the Trail Blazers’ 24 points in the final period came at the stripe, while the Nuggets got only two of their 15 from the line.

One night after he was ejected in a loss to New Jersey, Juwan Howard scored 17 points to lead the Nuggets, who had won the last three meetings with the Blazers.

“It’s tough playing this Denver team,” Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. “Seems like they have our number or something.”

Rookie center Nene Hilario, who has excelled against the Blazers this season, collected nine points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Denver held a 54-53 edge after an exciting first half in which neither team led by more than six points.

The Nuggets led throughout the third quarter before the Blazers forged an 81-81 tie with 8:10 left on Bonzi Wells’ jumper from the right wing.

Denver took the lead back 23 seconds later when Howard hit a 17-foot jumper. Jeff McInnis tied it at the other end on a floater after a nice spin move and Portland never trailed again.

Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace served the sixth of his seven-game suspension. The Blazers are 5-1 without the star forward, who threatened an official after a win over Memphis on January 15.

“It’s a challenge for us,” Portland guard Scottie Pippen said of the suspension. “If we play the tough teams good, as we did against Dallas, then we give ourselves a chance to win. All the other teams, even without Rasheed, we have the ability to win.”

Pippen contributed 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.

“Scottie’s been playing well for us through this whole run,” Cheeks said. “Hats off to him at his old age. He’s still playing well and is at the top of his game.”

Dale Davis added nine points and nine rebounds for the Blazers, who have won 18 of their last 22 games.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
N. Hilario N. Hilario
2-4,  9 Pts
8 Rebs, 6 Assists
D. Anderson D. Anderson
6-12,  24 Pts
1 Rebs, 5 Assists

Team Stat Leaders