Blazers stay home with 104-76 win over Denver

Preview | Box Score | Recap

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—As red and silver confetti floated down form the rafters of the Rose Garden, Brandon Roy allowed himself a few moments to celebrate the Portland Trail Blazers’ return to the playoffs.

Then he turned his thoughts to the Houston Rockets, the Blazers’ first-round opponent.

“I’m looking at it as a challenge,” he said. “But it’s going to be fun.”

Roy carried his toddler son around the court as the team celebrated a 104-76 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night that clinched home-court advantage for Portland in the first round of the playoffs.

The Blazers, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2002-03, will face Houston as the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.

The Nuggets, who clinched the second seed in the Western Conference, will play New Orleans.

Chauncey Billups had 13 points for the Nuggets, who finished the regular season 54-28 and tied the franchise record for wins set in 1987-88.

Portland, which led by as many as 31 points, has won six straight and also finished 54-28 in the Northwest Division. It was the best record for the Blazers since the 1999-2000 season, when they finished 59-23.

“We’re peaking at the right time,” center Joel Przybilla said. “We’re playing our best basketball at the biggest time of the year.”

Travis Outlaw came off the bench to lead Portland with 21 points. Rudy Fernandez, another sub, scored 18 points, going 6-for-9 from 3-point range. The rookie from Spain has hit 159 3-pointers, surpassing the rookie record for 3s held by Kerry Kittles (158).

“It was important. Everybody in Spain talked about the record,” he said. “I think it’s great a Spanish guy takes the record. It’s good for the team, good for Spain and great for me.”

The Nuggets landed at second in the West just before taking the court, when Dallas defeated Houston 95-84.

“It’s huge,” Billups said. “Our goal this season was to try to get home-court advantage in the playoffs, and we accomplished that.”

The Nuggets had already claimed the Northwest Division because they held the tiebreaker over the Blazers. Denver has home-court advantage for the opening round of the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.

The Blazers’ playoff opponent, the Rockets, was decided before the game when Houston lost and San Antonio defeated New Orleans. The Rockets are 2-1 against Portland this season.

The Blazers have won six straight at home, where they are among the league’s best at 34-7.

Denver pulled within 23-22 on Kenyon Martin’s put-back dunk at the end of the first quarter, but Portland began to pull away when Outlaw and Fernandez hit consecutive 3-pointers.

Outlaw’s pull-up jumper made it 25-22 and Portland went on to lead 53-34 at the break.

Carmelo Anthony, averaging 23 points per game for Denver, got off to a poor start and went just 2-for-14 from the floor in the first half. Anthony finished with 12 points, playing 30 minutes.

The Nuggets trailed by as many as 21 in the third quarter, but Billups almost single-handedly pulled them back in it. Billups had a 3-pointer, a layup and a free throw to close Denver to within 61-54.

J.R. Smith hit a jumper that narrowed it further to 63-58.

But Denver couldn’t get closer and Portland stretched it out again—going up 80-62 after Outlaw’s 3-pointer and a decisive dunk.

Shortly thereafter Denver coach George Karl began to pull his starters.

“It was a weird game for us,” Karl said. “Too much thinking and not enough playing.”

Notes

French rookie Nicolas Batum was back in Portland’s starting lineup after missing a game because of the flu. … Blazers center Joel Przybilla played in all 82 regular-season games. For Denver, Linas Kleiza appeared in all 82. … The Blazers scheduled a rally for Thursday in downtown Portland to celebrate the team’s return to the playoffs.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Denver
N. Hilario Nene Hilario
5-9,  10 Pts
9 Rebs, 1 Assists
 Portland
R. Fernandez Rudy Fernandez
6-9,  18 Pts
3 Rebs, 2 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

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Wednesday, Apr 15