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Late comeback falls short as Nuggets lose to Blazers

By The Associated Press

Posted March 1, 2014 23:09

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Robin Lopez scored 18 points, LaMarcus Aldridge returned from an injury to add 16, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 102-96 on Saturday night to sweep the series for the first time in 15 years.

Nicolas Batum had a career-high 16 rebounds for Portland, which has won its last five games.

Kenneth Faried, Randy Foye and Evan Fournier scored 16 points apiece, but Denver lost its fifth straight. Faried took a hard fall with less than two minutes left and appeared to injure his right knee, but finished out the game.

Portland won all four meetings, its first sweep of the series since the 1999 season, when the Blazers won all three games against the Nuggets.

Damian Lillard's driving layup gave Portland a 100-87 lead with 4:09 left in the game and the Nuggets never really challenged. Lillard finished with 17 points.

The Blazers had a bit of a rest after a 124-80 rout of Brooklyn on Wednesday night. The Nets played in Denver the next night, routing the Nuggets 112-89.

The Nuggets have won just one of their last 11 games.

Aldridge missed five games because of a left groin strain. The two-time All-Star, who was averaging 23.9 points and 11.4 rebounds, was greeted with a roar from the crowd at the Moda Center when he was announced as a starter.

Second-year center Meyers Leonard also returned after a five-game absence because of a sprained right ankle. But the Blazers did not have forwards Thomas Robinson, who has a left knee injury, and Joel Freeland, with a right knee sprain.

The Nuggets were hurting, too. Top scorer Ty Lawson missed his ninth straight game with a left rib fracture.

But guard Aaron Brooks, acquired before the trade deadline from Houston, played despite a sore ankle, and Wilson Chandler returned after missing a game because of a right knee sprain.

Denver closed within 52-47 late in the half after a pair of free throws from Faried, but Lopez's dunk and Lillard's layup helped push Portland's lead to 56-48 at the break. Lopez led all players with 12 points.

Lillard, Batum and Leonard had consecutive dunks to give the Blazers an early 22-12 lead. The Blazers stretched the lead to 73-60 in the third quarter on Batum's finger-roll layup.

NOTES:Brooks played at the University of Oregon and got warm applause during pregame game introductions. .... Batum becomes the fourth Trail Blazer this season with 16 or more rebounds in a game, joining Aldridge, Lopez and Robinson.

NUGGETS STAR OF THE GAME

D.J. Augustin

Points 16, 5-12 FG, 6-7 FT
Rebounds 10, 5 OFF 5 DEF
Assists 2
Steals 0
Blocks 1
GAME LEADERS
Points Robin Lopez 18
Rebounds Kenneth Faried 10
Assists Nicolas Batum 16
Steals Damian Lillard 3
Blocks Five players with 1
STAT OF THE NIGHT

Portland takes advantage of charity

The Blazers showed why the lead the NBA in free-throw percentage, hitting 23 of 24 attempts (Meyers Leonard had the lone miss). The Nuggets also made 23 free throws - but needed 12 more attempts to reach that mark.
KEY MOMENT

Cold shooting stalls late comeback

After pulling within six with 8:45 remaining, the Nuggets managed just one field goal over the next 4:49 as Portland built the lead back to 13. Denver scored the next seven points, but the deficit was too much to overcome in the final minutes.

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