Whiteside's Career High Goes To Waste In Denver

by Casey Holdahl
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DENVER -- As shorthanded as they are, the Portland Trail Blazers simply can’t afford having to rally multiple times from double-digit deficits if they expect to win, especially on the road. So after mounting a comeback in the second half of Thursday’s game versus the Nuggets in Denver, they didn’t have the luxury of making the same mistakes again.

But they did anyway.

After making up nearly all of a 12-point deficit, the Trail Blazers were outscored 10-0 in the final 2:47 seconds of the third quarter, paving the way for a 114-99 loss to the Nuggets in front of a crowd of 18,828 Thursday night at the Pepsi Center.

The Trail Blazers are now 10-16 overall and 5-10 on the road this season. Portland has lost six of their last eight regular season contests versus Denver.

Despite playing a motivated opponent on their home court, the Trail Blazers seemed to put themselves in great position to get what would easily be their best win of the season thanks to uncommon production from Hassan Whiteside.

The 7-0 center scored 11 points and made just the fifth three-pointer of his career in the first five minutes. He’d go scoreless in there second quarter, but put up 10 points in the third, with most of those coming as the Blazers were making up a nine-point halftime deficit.

"Dame was finding me and I was just trying to make the best decision," said Whiteside. "They was kind of trapping him and he was just looking for the short roll."

Between Whiteside and Carmelo Anthony, who put up 18 points through the first three quarters, Portland looked as though they were on the verge of going into the fourth quarter with a lead and momentum.

But after a Damian Lillard three pointer cut Denver’s lead to 79-78 late in the third, Portland went scoreless while the Nuggets got two three-pointers from Jerami Grant and an alley-pop dunk from Mason Plumlee to go 10-0 and take an 89-78 lead into the fourth.

"Digging a whole to start the game, being down double-digits pretty much the whole first half and then cutting it to nine at the half, we had a talk about it at halftime," said Lillard. "(Assistant coach) Nate (Tibbetts) got on us about our defensive effort and I thought we came out with better energy... I think when you've got to fight so hard to get back into a game, you get there and sometimes that's when they figure it out and you kind of used so much energy and effort that it gets away from you again. I thought that's what happened to finish the third after a great effort for the whole quarter."

Portland would never recover after coming so close, going down by as many as 18 in the fourth before eventually losing by 15.

The Blazers were led by Whiteside, who set a new career high in scoring with 33 points on 15-of-21 shooting from the field to go with four blocks and two assists in 35 minutes. And with 11 rebounds, he became the first Trail Blazer since Buck Williams to grab at least 10 rebounds in 10 straight games.

Anthony finished with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting and nine rebounds in nearly 37 minutes. Damian Lillard put up a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds in 37 minutes.

CJ McCollum added 15 points and both Kent Bazemore and Anfernee Simons finished with nine. No other Trail Blazers scored in Thursday’s contest.

Grant and Nikola Jokic each finished with 20 to lead the Nuggets while Will Barton and Gary Harris both added 15.

Next up, the Trail Blazers now have three days off. But instead of heading home to Portland, the team is going straight to Phoenix for Monday night’s game versus the Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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