Denver Nuggets-Portland Trail Blazers Gameday

by Aaron Lopez

Hickson grabs 25 rebounds but Nuggets fall to Blazers

By The Associated Press

Posted Feb. 25, 2014 22:57

DENVER (AP) -- Damian Lillard made up for the absence of fellow All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge by scoring 31 points in the Portland Trail Blazers' 100-95 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

Lillard scored 12 in the third quarter when it looked as if the Blazers were headed for a blowout win, but he saved his biggest shots for late in the fourth after the Nuggets had trimmed an 18-point deficit to two.

Lillard helped Portland overcome a terrific performance by Denver's J.J. Hickson, who pulled down a career-high 25 rebounds, including 15 off the offensive glass. Hickson helped the Nuggets to a 64-41 advantage on the glass.

The Blazers again went with a smaller lineup with Aldridge missing his fourth straight game with a strained left groin, and Dorell Wright helped make up for Aldridge's team-high 23.9 points and 11.4 rebounds by giving Denver another long-range shooter to defend.

As Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said before tip-off when talking about Aldridge's absence, ''There's a big sigh of relief that you don't have to deal with that, but at the same time it just creates a different type of problem: They're one of the best - if not the best - 3-point shooting teams in the league. They're the best free-throw shooting team in the league. They're the highest-scoring team in the league.''

Six Blazers scored in double figures, including Nicolas Batum's 16 points.

Aldridge averaged 34.5 points in the Blazers' two earlier games against Denver this season and the Trail Blazers missed him in the fourth quarter when it was tougher to close this one out than they had expected when they surged to a 79-61 lead in the third.

Randy Foye led Denver with 17 points.

Denver again was without Ty Lawson, who leads the Nuggets with averages of 18 points and 8.8 assists. He's missed seven straight games with a broken rib.

Shaw also made a big change with his big man, starting 7-foot-1 Timofey Mozgov at center in place of Hickson, who had started 52 games in the middle this season despite being undersized.

Hickson is a natural power forward but was pressed into duty at center after JaVale McGee fractured his left tibia five games into the season. He filled in admirably, averaging 11.4 points and 9.2 boards, but he shot just 52 percent from the free-throw line, and Shaw said that ''affected his confidence rolling to the basket aggressively and running the floor because maybe he doesn't want to get fouled.''

Hickson scored 16 points and Mozgov, who was averaging 8.6 points and 5.8 rebounds, finished with 14 points and six boards.

The Nuggets never led after the opening minutes but they did make it interesting in the final period. Evan Fournier's pair of free throws with just over four minutes remaining capped a 15-2 run that pulled Denver to 86-84.

Lillard ended the drought with a pair of free throws and then Wesley Matthews hit a pair to make it 90-84 with 3:39 left.

After back-to-back buckets by Denver's Kenneth Faried, Lillard hit a finger-roll layup for a 92-88 lead, and the Nuggets never got any closer.

NOTES: The Nuggets announced plans to honor their 1993-94 team that was the first No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed with an upset of the Seattle SuperSonics in the playoffs that year. The Nuggets will celebrate the 20th anniversary of that upset on March 17 when they host the Clippers. ... Shaw said on 104.3 The Fan in Denver that at times he's had to get his players off the bus and send them back onto the team plane ''because it's not the flight attendants' job or the flight crew to clean up after these guys.'' He used the anecdote as a way to say his players need to pay more attention to detail.


J.J. Hickson

Points 16 6-16 FG, 4-6 FT
Rebounds 25, 15 OFF 10 DEF
Assists 1
Steals 1
Blocks 1


Points Damian Lillard 31
Rebounds J.J. Hickson 25
Assists Damian Lillard 9
Steals Three with 2
Blocks Robin Lopez 7


Nuggets coach Brian Shaw on forward J.J. Hickson grabbing 25 rebounds in a reserve role

"It seemed to fire J.J. up. He was very energetic. He was a monster on the boards, especially on the offensive boards. So that’s the kind of effort that I want to see."


Batum hits timely 3 to thwart Nuggets comeback

Denver trailed by as many as 15 early in the fourth quarter but got as close as two on the strength of a 15-2 run. The Nuggets were still down four when Nicolas Batum hit a clinching 3 with 42.5 seconds remaining.


Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw

On points in the paint:

“We had 64 shots in the paint and we only connected on 27 of them. In a game where you get 27 offensive rebounds you think you’ll win that game going away. J.J. [Hickson] did a heck of a job for us coming off the bench with 16 points and 25 rebounds and 15 offensive rebounds. We just weren’t able to convert all of those opportunities that we got. When we were able to get second and third shots we weren’t very good from the perimeter shooting the ball tonight.”

On effort in fourth quarter:
“I was happy to see that but I wouldn’t say that I was proud because that’s what we’re supposed to do. I shouldn’t have to beg for that on a nightly basis. Yea I was happy to see it because it’s something that we’ve been harping on at least for the last two or three weeks. To finally see it, yea I was happy but proud of it? No I’m not proud of it because that’s the way you should play all the time.”

On J.J. Hickson coming off the bench:
“It seemed to fire J.J. up. He was very energetic. He was a monster on the boards, especially on the offensive boards. So that’s the kind of effort that I want to see.”

Nuggets guard Randy Foye

On J.J.Hickson:
“I told J.J.Hickson don’t let coming off the bench affect you just come out and respond by playing hard. He bounced back and worked hard. I told him way to keep working, he did a great job and was a big part on the comeback.”

On finishing in the paint:
“I took it in the paint a couple of times, Robin Lopez is really smart by staying on his feet and keeping his hands up. That’s something we have been working on but we haven’t capitalized on it just yet but coach is right we have to take it to the basket to get easy point.”

Nuggets forward J.J. Hickson

On recording 25 rebounds tonight against his former team:
“Nothing special, just working hard—I felt like I was due for an okay game; I had been struggling the last couple games. 25 boards is exciting, but the win would have been even more exciting. I like the way we fought, I like the way we kept our head when we were down and I like the way we stayed engaged the whole game. Like I said, it would have meant way more if we had got the win.”

On what sparked their fourth-quarter comeback:
“Just playing hard—we didn’t give up, we didn’t give up, we didn’t hang our heads, we kept fighting, we ran them off the three-point line and made them take tough threes and they started off hot, but during the duration of the game they slowed down. They hit a couple of threes at the end, but we kind of had them bottled up and ran them off the three-point line.”

On playing the four position rather than the five that he has been playing this season:
“It felt good playing the four. I feel like as long as I’m out there on the court I can make a difference, but I definitely felt way more comfortable playing the four—it just felt good to play my natural position.”

Blazers coach Terry Stotts

On tonight’s performance:
“I was really proud of the way we competed. It was a difficult game and we did a lot of good things. We made some big plays defensively to win it at the end. Our offense kind of shut down a bit in the fourth quarter, but our defense stayed solid. To get a win like this in Denver is something we needed to do.”

On why this was such a difficult game:
“Thomas [Robinson] going down kind of limited our big men. So we had to find other ways to play. I guess what made it difficult was in the fourth quarter. For a little over three quarters we played really good, but [the Nuggets] played big, we played small. [The Nuggets] pounded the boards and made some plays. So what made the game difficult was the fourth quarter.”

On the teams resourcefulness:
“I think it says a lot about the guys that were out there. Everybody did a little bit of everything. Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson are two of the best rebounders in the league. Our guys were just competing. Obviously J.J. had a great night rebounding the ball. But, I thought even being relatively undersized, the defensive plays we came up with were big. Dorell [Wright] fronting the post and getting a deflection and turning that into two points was a big momentum play for us. We have said this a few times, but, as long as LaMarcus [Aldridge] is out, everybody is going to have to do a little more. Damian [Lillard] had it going early. We just need to keep finding ways to score and keep finding ways to keep [opponents] from scoring.”

Blazers center Robin Lopez:

On overall performance:

“I had a lot of guys helping me out inside. I think near the end of the game we were trying to pack it in. I wasn;t out there trying to chase stats. I was out there just trying to play basketball and I think that’s what everybody else was trying to do too.”

On if Denver's small lineup affected Portland:
“I don’t know if we saw it that way. We were a little shorthanded in the front court too. I think we just came into this game knowing that they’re still an aggressive offensive rebounding team and we were just going to have to scrap to get that W.”

Blazers guard Damian Lillard:

On overall performance:

“We got up on them and they turned it around and picked up their energy. The game was kind of going our way because we were executing, flying around and getting stops. We kind of relaxed because I guess we thought it was easy but really we were just doing what we were supposed to be doing but they found their way back into the game.”

On Nuggets comeback in fourth quarter:

“They really picked it up. We had some lazy passes and just weren’t moving the ball as much as we were when we went on that big run. That’s how the game goes. It’s a game of spurts. In that fourth quarter they had their run.”

On playing without LeMarcus Aldridge:
“I think it was a lot of guys. It wasn’t just me. Obviously I have to be a little more aggressive and step up my game with him out. We’ve been having guys step up consistently with Mo [Williams] coming in, [Dorell] Wright, Will [Barton], [Thomas Robinson], and everybody has raised their level of play. That’s what we’re going to need as long as [LeMarcus Aldridge] is out.”



• J.J. Hickson posted 16 points and a career-high 25 rebounds (15 offensive) tonight. His 25 rebounds is tied for third most rebounds in Nuggets NBA history, and his 15 offensive rebounds is the most ever by a Nugget in team NBA history (tied for most in franchise history with Spencer Haywood, who grabbed 15 at Kentucky on 2/12/70).

• Since December 1997, only three players in the NBA have collected 15+ offensive rebounds in a single game: J.J. Hickson with 15 vs. POR on 2/25/14, Andray Blatche with 16 vs. CLE on 4/1/11 and Dennis Rodman with 15 vs. LAC on 12/23/97.

• Additionally, tonight was Hickson’s second game with 24+ rebounds this season, joining Dwight Howard as the only players this season to post two 24+ rebound games (LaMarcus Aldridge and Anderson Varejao each have one such game).

• Aaron Brooks registered 14 points, five rebounds and six assists. It is the sixth time in his career he has reached those numbers in the same game and first time doing so since 4/11/10 at PHX.

• Damian Lillard posted 31 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. It was the second time in his career reaching those numbers in the same game, with both of them coming this season.

• Robin Lopez totaled 12 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks. It was ninth career game with five-or-more blocks, and just the second time doing so while registering a double-double as well.


• With tonight’s loss, Denver falls to 14-14 at home, their most losses at Pepsi Center since 2006-07 (18 home losses).

• Coming into tonight’s game, Denver had won 23 of their last 26 home games over Portland. The Blazers swept the Nuggets (2-0) in Denver this season, the first time doing so in a full season since 1996-97.

• Additionally, Portland leads the season-series over Denver 3-0 this season, their first time winning at least three games in the series since 1998-99.

• The Nuggets are now 1-16 on the year when scoring 95-or-fewer points.

• Denver grabbed 64 rebounds (27 offensive) tonight. The 64 boards set a new NBA season-high, while the 27 tied an NBA season-high for offensive rebounds.

• The Trail Blazers shot 28-76 (.368) from the field. Denver is now 6-3 when holding their opponent to under 40% shooting from the field.

• The Nuggets also shot under 40% (37-103 FG), moving to 0-11 this season when failing to shoot 40%-or-better.

• Denver’s 103 field goal attempts were their most in a non-overtime game since they shot 108 in 4/18/01 vs. SAC.

• The Nugget’s made four three-pointers, tied for their second fewest this year. Their .200 three-point field goal percentage is also tied for their second lowest this year.