PORTLAND, Ore.(AP) After splitting two physical and competitive games with Denver, the Portland Trail Blazers see a rivalry in the making.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points and Brandon Roy added 19 in Portland's 101-92 win over the Nuggets on Tuesday night in the second game of a home-and-home series.
"After last night, where they kind of took it to us and beat us up, this is a really big win for us,'' said Joel Przybilla, who had 19 rebounds and 10 points. "We're going to be battling with this team all season for the division.''
Przybilla hit four crucial free throws in the final 2:40 and the Blazers (18-11) tied the Nuggets atop the Northwest Division. Aldridge put an exclamation point on the victory with a thunderous rebound and dunk with 20 seconds to go.
Linas Kleiza had 20 points, including five 3-pointers, for the Nuggets, who lost three in a row before beating Portland 97-89 in a physical game Monday night in Denver. Nene had 17 points and 13 rebounds.
A sore elbow kept Denver's leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, out for the second consecutive night.
"We knew these two games would be playoff-type games,'' said Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups, who added 17 points on 4-of-12 shooting. "They cracked up to be just that.''
Denver and Portland play twice more this season - during the first week of March and the last week of the season. Denver has gone to the playoffs four straight seasons under coach George Karl, while the Blazers last made the playoffs in 2003.
"What we are working on, and what we've got to do, is make that transition,'' Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "Being able to play with Phoenix, the Nuggets and Dallas is going to require the same type of basketball, very physical.''
Roy averaged more than 36 points during a five-game span before being held to eight points and 3-of-11 shooting Monday. His offensive woes continued through the first three quarters Tuesday night as he made just three of his first nine shots. But the All-Star had 12 points in the fourth quarter while Portland rallied.
Roy also finished with six assists. Greg Oden started for the Blazers but picked up five fouls in 10 minutes and didn't score.
The Blazers led by 12 in the second quarter but Denver whittled the lead after Portland had turnovers on three consecutive possessions. J.R. Smith hit a pull-up jumper for Denver to start a 7-0 run and the Nuggets trailed 47-42 going into halftime.
Personal fouls and bad passes cost the Blazers the lead in the third quarter. Nene stepped in front of Travis Outlaw's telegraphed inbounds pass and had an easy dunk on the other end to tie it at 58.
Kleiza hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Denver a 64-63 edge, but the Blazers regained the lead 78-76 on an alley-oop from Rudy Fernandez to Roy with 8:11 to go in the fourth.
Notes: Portland is 10-2 at home this season. ... Anthony is expected to miss Friday's game against Philadelphia, too.