Portland comes away with rare win in Denver

Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchangeNovember 2, 2013

DENVER -- Nicolas Batum got things started, Wesley Matthews kept it going and LaMarcus Aldridge closed things out in the fourth quarter.
It was the right formula for the Portland Trail Blazers to come away with a rare win in Colorado.
Batum scored all of his 21 points in the first half, Aldridge dropped in nine of his game-high 25 points in the fourth and the hot-shooting Trail Blazers held on to beat Denver 113-98 in the Nuggets' home opener Friday night.
Matthews scored 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Blazers, who hit 12 of their first 18 shots from 3-point range and finished 14-for-22 from behind the arc.
"Nicolas Batum got us going early, Wesley Matthews came on and LaMarcus Aldridge closed it," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Top to bottom it was a solid win."
Nate Robinson scored 24 off the bench and Ty Lawson scored 21 in a forgettable night for Denver, which dropped its first two games of the season.
"It's not the way we wanted to start off the season, 0-2, but it's where we are right now," Denver coach Brian Shaw said.
The Nuggets are 0-2 because they couldn't stop the Blazers from knocking down shots. Batum started 5-for-6 from long range and Matthews hit all four of his 3-pointers. It helped Portland build a big lead early that it never relinquished.
"They shot the hell out of the ball," Robinson said. "They had a team of great shooters and we took it for granted in the first half. Batum got them started and it snowballed."
Despite the bad start, things started tilting Denver's way in the fourth. The Blazers led 95-74 when the Nuggets finally made a charge. Robinson hit two 3-pointers to spark a 20-6 rally that made it 101-94 with 4:48 left.
"We made a strong push in the second half but we were supposed to play like that in the first half," Lawson said.
The run brought the dormant crowd back to life, but things went silent again when Portland made a last run to pull away.
Joel Freeland hit a free throw, and after Robinson missed a floater in the lane, Matthews nailed his fourth 3-pointer to make it 105-94.
Aldridge then took over. He hit three straight turnaround jumpers -- two over former teammate J.J. Hickson -- to put the game away.
"That was like NBA 2K14," Blazers forward Dorell Wright said of Aldridge. "There's not too many guys in this league who can put their back to the basket and get you a bucket when you need one. That's why he's a two-time All-Star, because he makes those big shots."
Aldridge was relatively quiet before the fourth when his teammates were building a big lead.
Batum got Portland rolling with 15 points in the first quarter before the Blazers broke open a close game in the second. Damian Lillard hit two 3-pointers and a layup in scoring 11 of his 13 first-half points in 2:04 to turn a one-point game into a 46-34 Portland lead. His driving layup with time running out in the half gave the Blazers a 16-point edge.
Lillard finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
"He managed the game well," Stotts said. "He took his opportunities when they were there, got other players involved when he had to and called plays when they needed to be called."
The Blazers kept adding to the lead in the third when Matthews got hot. He hit three 3-pointers to help Portland build a 24-point lead late in the quarter.
Batum, Lillard and Matthews were a combined 12-for-16 from 3-point range.
"It's a hot night, but when there's no one in front of you, you can shoot a percentage like that," Shaw said.
It was enough to hold off Denver, which went 38-3 at home last season.
NOTES: Nuggets F Wilson Chandler (hamstring) missed his second game in a row. There is no timetable for his return. ... Portland G Earl Watson (left calf strain) was inactive for the second consecutive game. ... Denver had their 23-game, regular-season home winning streak snapped. The Nuggets last loss -- other than Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals last April -- was Jan. 18 against Washington. ... Portland came into Friday's game on a nine-game losing streak at Pepsi Center. The Trail Blazers had not won in Denver since Dec. 16, 2007. ... Nuggets mascot Rocky was injured performing a stunt during the opening festivities.