Blazers sputter out of gate to lose 104-95 in Denver

With high hopes to get a good start to the second half of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers (18-17) flew to the Mile High City in Denver to face division rival Nuggets (19-17) in a matchup of which the home team have always come out victorious. Things were looking up for Portland as they learned Denver would be without much of their starters due to injury, no Nene, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Fernandez or Chris Andersen to worry about as Portland dealt Denver a blowout victory at the Rose Garden on February 4 thanks to nine three-pointers from Nic Batum. With Joel Przybilla in a suit and tie on the bench, Portland was slow to get started in the first half, falling behind as many as 18 points and staged another fruitless comeback, losing 104-95 to inch closer to a .500 record.

The first half saw a lot of missed open shots, plenty of turnovers and not boxing out inside the paint, letting the Nuggets thrive on offensive rebounds all night long. Kurt Thomas came into the game early in the first quarter and in a weird freak accident, was kicked in the head going for a loose ball. It didn’t seem too serious at first until Thomas seemed woozy getting up and headed quickly to the locker room to never return. Thomas was then listed as suffering from a mild concussion. Things would just get worse for the Blazers as they stood around and watched the Nuggets run circles around them, falling behind 29-22 after one and it grew to 62-45 at halftime.

Midway through the third Portland starting hitting their shots, making the rebounds and cutting into the lead, the charge led by Jamal Crawford and Elliot Williams, but never quite made noise as they reached single digits but the Nuggets got their heads on straight and kept the Blazers from threatening ever again, sealing the deal on a wide open Aaron Afflalo dunk to win 104-95.

Crawford who again made the starting lineup at point guard was one of the only guys who managed to find his shot and contributed to a team-high 21 Pts, 5 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Blk and 5-9 from three that did most damage in the third quarter. On his return from the All-Star Game, LaMarcus Aldridge had difficultly all night getting into rhythm and getting beat inside by Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos he followed with a solid 20 Pts, 9 Reb on 7-16 shooting. Elliot Williams came off the bench flying high for alley oop dunks for 10 Pts, Wesley Matthews lead the bench players with just 11.

Denver out-rebounded Portland 54-36 by Denver and allows 54 points in the paint in the process. The Blazers shoot better from the three hitting 9-24 but are just owned whenever they try to score inside the painted area.

Never easy to come into Denver, and it’s not fair that Portland has to welcome the Miami Heat the next night on a back-to-back, but they do. Joel Przybilla won’t suit up till Saturday but it’s plenty clear that we need him bad.

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