They listened, and the Nuggets beat the Blazers 107-98 Thursday night as Portland introduced the three new players acquired in the trade of volatile forward Rasheed Wallace.
Denver was led by Voshon Lenard with 31 points while rookie Carmelo Anthony, who will face teammate Nene in the weekend’s Rookie Challenge, had 27 points. Lenard is taking part in the 3-point shooting competition.
“We’ve talked about it for two straight days that the All-Star game does not start until after the Portland game,” Bzdelik said. “Every year about this time there are some strange scores because guys have their bags packed and are ready to go prior to the game they’re supposed to play.”
The Nuggets’ focus spoiled the debut of the newest Blazers. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff and Dan Dickau were acquired in Monday night’s trade with Atlanta for temperamental forward Rasheed Wallace and reserve Wesley Person.
Abdur-Rahim led the Blazers with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Ratliff had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Anthony gave the Nuggets a 69-58 lead with a fast-break layup—off a perfect pass from Andre Miller—midway through the third quarter. The Blazers’ response was to put in all the new Blazers, including Darius Miles, who was acquired in a trade last month. The only Portland veteran on the court was Derek Anderson.
Denver answered by extending its lead to 13 at 71-58 on Chris Andersen’s layup and the Nuggets went on to lead by as many as 15 points. Anderson will participate in the weekend’s slam dunk contest.
The Nuggets have won two straight—both with starting center Marcus Camby sidelined by a hamstring injury.
The Blazers got as close as 98-91 when Abdur-Rahim tipped in Anderson’s perimeter shot with two minutes left.
“They looked bigger, I’ll tell you that,” Anthony said about the new Blazers. “It’s going to be tough for other teams to matchup with that big lineup.”
Ratliff was the first newly acquired Blazers to enter the game. He got a standing ovation from the Rose Garden crowd when he relieved starter Dale Davis with 3:56 to go in the first quarter.
Abdur-Rahim was greeted similarly when he come in more than two minutes later.
“Tonight we were out of sync and a lot of that was players not knowing each other,” coach Maurice Cheeks said. “But I look forward to the task. I like the mixture of players we have. In time they’ll get better.”
The Blazers jumped out to an 18-12 lead on Zach Randolph’s turnaround jumper. But the Nuggets climbed quickly back, and took the lead when Lenard’s 3-pointer made it 25-22.
The Blazers, coming off a 86-81 loss to Utah on Tuesday night when they were short-handed and waiting for the new players to arrive, took a 35-34 lead on Abdur-Rahim’s dunk—following Ratliff’s spectacular block of Anthony on the other end.
It didn’t last long as Denver went up 38-37 on Anthony’s layup. Nene’s dunk extended the Nuggets’ lead to 46-41.
Denver went on to lead 54-49 at the half.
The focus was squarely on the Blazers, who were barely recognizable from the team they were just two months ago.
Portland traded away volatile guard Bonzi Wells back in December, one of the team’s first moves in an effort to clean up its tarnished reputation.
Wallace had a rocky history in his seven-plus seasons in Portland, including a seven-game suspension for threatening an official last season and anNBA-record 41 technical fouls in 2000-01.
Camby expects to be back for the Nuggets’ game against Philadelphia after the All-Star break. … Denver guard Jon Barry, questionable because of a strained right rotator cuff, saw limited action. … Anthony reiterated that, if asked, he’ll be an All-Star replacement. “Oh year. I’ve thought about thata couple of times, but if they call me, I’ll play,” he said.