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Energy lacking early as Nuggets fall to Trail Blazers in home opener

By Aaron J. Lopez, Nuggets.com

Posted Nov. 2, 2013 01:10

SuperMascot Rocky had the wind knocked out of him before pregame introductions, and the Nuggets were slow getting the wind in their sails.

Not much went according to plan in Denver’s 2013-14 home opener.

The Nuggets tried to rally from a 26-point third-quarter deficit, pulling within eight in the final minutes, before falling to the Portland Trail Blazers 113-98 in front of a sellout crowd at Pepsi Center on Friday night.

“For a home opener, I thought the way that we played when we started to come back was the way that we needed to be playing the game from the very beginning,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Our team looked very tired from the jump.

“Regardless of who we play, we have to be the team that plays the hardest. We have to be the team that gets the loose balls. For about three quarters, we weren’t that team.”

Nate Robinson did his best to bring the Nuggets back in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points in the game’s final 10 minutes. He finished 8-for-17 from the field and 4-of-6 from 3-point range, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Portland from snapping Denver’s 23-game regular-season home winning streak.

The Nuggets hadn’t lost a regular-season game at Pepsi Center since Jan. 18.

“Home openers are key. They’re big,” Robinson said. “From watching this team last year and seeing the crowd, home-court advantage is something we have to take care of. We have to give these fans what they deserve, and that’s victories at home. In the fourth quarter, I just told the team we have to get the fans involved.”

Robinson had a chance to cut Portland’s lead to six with under 5 minutes to play, but his floater in the lane didn't drop, and Wesley Matthews responded with a 3-pointer at the other end to push the advantage back to 11 with 4:12 remaining.

The Nuggets never got the lead under double-digits the rest of the way.

“We just didn’t play defense,” Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. “There was too big of a hole to come back from. We made a strong second-half push, but we’re supposed to play like that in the first half. We just didn’t come out to play.”

Behind the hot shooting of Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard, the Blazers exploded for 40 points in the second quarter and took a 14-point lead into halftime. Portland finished 14-of-22 from 3-point range to become just the third opponent in Nuggets history to make at least 14 3s while shooting .636 or better.

“When there’s nobody in front of you shooting the ball, you’re going to shoot a percentage like that,” Shaw said. “We had guys who fell down on plays and got mixed up in our rotations. We just weren’t alert and we didn’t play with that fire and that passion that we need to play with.”

Robinson and fellow reserve Kenneth Faried displayed plenty of fire in the fourth quarter. Faried bounced up from a hard foul in the fourth quarter and finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes.

“Faried is going to be Faried,” Lawson said. “It was good to see him back on the court bouncing around, getting rebounds and just having his energy on the floor.”

The Nuggets will have to bring a collective energy to the court when they face the San Antonio Spurs next Tuesday at Pepsi Center.

They will have three days to watch film and fine-tune their defensive rotations and offensive sets. It should be noted that Denver lost its first three games last season before going on to win a team-record 57 games.

“I think we should show more effort,” Robinson said. “I know this is a new team with new coaches, but that’s not an excuse. I really believe in this team, and we can do great things. We just got to believe and play as hard as we can and compete.”

NUGGETS STAR OF THE GAME

Nate Robinson

Points 24 8-17 FG, 4-6 3FG
Rebounds 7, 1 OFF 6 DEF
Assists 1
Steals 0
Blocks 0
GAME LEADERS
Points LaMarcus Aldridge 25
Rebounds Wesley Matthews 12
Assists Damian Lillard 7
Steals Randy Foye 3
Blocks Robin Lopez 2
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson on the reason behind the team's slow start

“No idea. It was opening night. There’s no reason for you not to have a lot of energy ready to play. It was the first night to see us. We had a 38-3 (home) record last year. I don’t understand why we didn’t come out ready to play."

KEY MOMENT

Wesley Matthews hits a 3 to keep Nuggets at bay

After the Nuggets cut a 26-point deficit to eight, Nate Robinson missed a tough shot in the lane, and Portland guard Wesley Matthews knocked down an open 3 to push the lead back to 11 with 4:12 to play. Denver never got any closer the rest of the way.
VIDEO RECAP

Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw

Opening statement:
"We knew this was going to be a process. The defense was a problem, giving up 64 points in the first half. They finished 14 for 22 from the 3-point line, and I would say probably 16 or 18 of those 3-point shots were uncontested. It’s more a problem of that than the style of play we’re trying to play. Our shooters are getting shots. The ball’s not going in for us. We’re not knocking down free throws. We have a small margin for error. We can’t give up 16 offensive rebounds as well."

On the team's slow start to the game
“Lackluster. For a home opener, I thought the way that we played when we started to come back was the way that we needed to be playing the game from the very beginning. Our team looked very tired from the jump, especially our bigs. They just looked winded. They looked like they were the team that played in the altitude and we were the team that was coming in on the second night of a back-to-back.”

On the importance of effort:
“Regardless of who we play, we have to be the team that plays the hardest, we have to be the team that gets the loose balls. For about three quarters, we weren’t that team.”

On Portland going 14-for-22 from 3-point range:
“It’s a hot night, but when there’s nobody in front of you shooting the ball you’re going to shoot a percentage like that. We had guys who fell down on plays and got mixed up in our rotations. We just weren't alert and we didn’t play with that fire and that passion that we need to play with.”

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried

On how his back feels after a hard fall in the fourth quarter:
“I’m a tough individual. I’m going to get through it. I’m going to be all right. Just get some treatment and I should be all right.”

On what changed for Denver in the fourth quarter:
“Intensity. Energy. We wanted to win. Home opener. Everybody was getting their first taste of the Nuggets in the regular season, and we wanted to win. I believe I picked it up, Randy (Foye) picked it up, Ty (Lawson) picked it up, Timo (Timofey Mozgov) played big and Nate (Robinson) played big. We wanted to make sure whoever we were guarding didn’t score. Nicolas Batum got off to a hot, Wesley Matthews was getting hot. We wanted to stop all that.”

On having the bounce back in his step:
“I felt like my old self from Game 1. I felt like my old self when I got back to practice. It’s just waiting for coach to feel like he’s more comfortable. J.J. (Hickson) did earn that (starting spot). He played the whole preseason and was playing well. Out of respect, I have to wait my turn.”

Nuggets guard Nate Robinson

On primary problem against Portland:
“We couldn’t get stops when we needed them. We came out a little flat in the first half, but you got to tip your hats to Portland, they shot the ball well. Portland has a team full of great shooters and we took it for granted in the first half.”

On team rallying in the fourth quarter
“Home openers are key and watching this team last year home court advantage is something we have to take care of. We need to give these fans what they deserve and that is victories at home. Fourth quarter, I just told the team we have to get the fans involved. We were out there playing our hearts out. It just seems like things were not going our way. Sometimes you just have to make things go your way.”

On correcting the mistakes:
“I think we should show more effort. I know this is a new team with new coaches but that’s not an excuse. I really believe in this team and we can do great things. We just got to believe and play as hard as we can and compete.”

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts

On getting a road victory:
“It was a solid win. I liked the way we came out, I liked our demeanor at the defensive end for the entire game – I think we kept them under 40 percent shooting for most the night and that is what we need to do on the defensive end. I thought we had a lot of solid efforts at the offensive end. Nicolas Batum got us going early, Wesley Matthews came on, LaMarcus Aldridge closed it and Damian Lillard was solid all night. Top to bottom it was a solid win for us.”

On surviving Denver's fourth-quarter defense:
“It was a solid win at the defensive end. LaMarcus Aldridge brought us home with his post game. It’s good to have a guy like that who can make those plays and guys can play off of him. Any win in this league, particularly on the road, is tough. I thought the way we kept our composure when they made their run is something we should be proud of.”

On Damian Lillard's play:
“I thought he managed the game well. 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. So, I thought he had a good all-around floor game. He has a great sense of his teammates and the flow of the game and I think he is going to continue to grow in that area."

Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez

On the game's physicality:
“We were just physical. We were committed to our ideals and we just stuck with it.”

On the team's offensive performance:
“We have so many people on the offensive end. That’s why we are focusing so much on defense. We feel like the offense is going to take care of itself.”

On whether the two teams were talking much on the court:
“It wasn't as feisty as the last game. Just talking about basketball, playing basketball, just worrying about on the court. No time for the extracurricular stuff. Just happy to get the win.”

Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum

On his hot start to the game (15 points in first quarter):
“I just tried to go out there and play. Last game I wasn’t that great, so Wesley (Matthews) and I had to do something tonight”

On creating his own shots:
“I have to find this balance between creating for somebody else and creating my own shots. Tonight I just tried to score first.”

POSTGAME NOTES

INDIVIDUAL

• Ty Lawson registered 20+ points, 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists for the second consecutive game, the second time in his career he has reached these numbers in back-to-back games (also did on Mar. 2-4, 2012).

• Kenneth Faried recorded his first double-double of the season (44th of career). Denver is now 26-2 at home when Faried posts a double-double.

• Nate Robinson posted his seventh career game with 24+ points and 7+ rebounds. Denver has now won 11 of their last 13 games when a reserve posts those numbers.

• LaMarcus Aldridge tallied 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists tonight, the 16th time in his career he has reached all those numbers in a single game.

• Wesley Matthews recorded 21 points and 12 rebounds, just the third double-double of his career and second career game with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

TEAM

• The Nuggets lost their home opener to Portland 113-98. The loss snaps Denver’s 23-game regular season home winning streak that began on 1/20/13 vs. OKC.

• Tonight was Denver’s first loss in a home-opener since 11/1/08 vs. LAL. The Nuggets had won their last four home openers.

• Additionally, tonight’s 15-point loss was the Nuggets’ worst loss in a home opener since they lost by 18 on 2/5/99 vs. MIN.

• The loss also ends Denver’s nine game home-winning streak over Portland. It is their first home loss to the Blazers since 12/16/07.

• This is the second consecutive season that Denver has started the season 0-2 (last season the Nuggets were 0-3 before winning their home opener vs. DET on 11/6/12).

• Denver committed just five turnovers in tonight’s game, tying their all-time franchise low (committed five on six previous occasions).

• The Nuggets .364 (36-99 FG) field goal percentage was their lowest at home since they shot .347 (25-72 FG) on 2/23/09 vs. BOS.

• The Trail Blazers shot .636 (14-22 3FG) from beyond the arc, just the third time in team history a Denver opponent has made 14+ threes while shooting .636-or-better (most recently vs. DET on 3/21/12).

• The Nuggets bench outscored the starters 55-43 tonight. Denver went 5-5 last year when the reserves outscored the starters.

• The Blazers scored 40 points in the second quarter, the first time since 11/1/09 vs. MEM that an opponent has had a 40-point quarter in Denver.

• Portland had four starters post 18+ points, the first time a Nuggets’ opponent has accomplished this since 4/12/08 at UTA.