Nuggets-Trail Blazers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 29, 2011
The Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets each have gotten off to solid starts. If recent history comes into play, the Blazers are in better shape to keep rolling. Portland seeks its fourth straight home victory over Denver when the teams meet Thursday night. LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace have largely been responsible for the Blazers' 2-0 start, each scoring 20-plus points for the second straight game in Tuesday's 101-79 rout of Sacramento. Aldridge scored 25 points in the opener and added 24 on Tuesday, giving Portland a chance to win its first three games for the second straight season. Wallace, who came over from Charlotte in a trade in February, scored 21 points Monday and 25 to help the Blazers overcome a slow start Tuesday. "(Wallace) was big for us," Aldridge told Portland's official website. "When we had dead moments, he made something happen. He either got an offensive rebound and put it back or just went to the basket and got fouled. I thought that was big for us." Coach Nate McMillan praised the effort of Wallace, who has averaged 23.3 points in his last seven games against Denver. "Gerald, his energy was great. Whenever I've been able to get him at the four, he's doing some aggressive things - trapping, running," McMillan said. "With Gerald and Nic (Batum) on the floor it really gives us a lot of speed and that combination, in this short season, has been pretty good for us." Aldridge scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help the Blazers overcome an injury that kept Wallace out of a 107-106 overtime victory in the most recent meeting with Denver on Feb. 25. Aldridge, who has a double-double in three of the last four games against the Nuggets, hit two free throws with 23 seconds left in OT. Danilo Gallinari scored 30 points in that contest for Denver, which has lost three straight and seven of the last nine meetings in Portland. The Nuggets, though, come into this matchup on a roll after a pair of blowout victories. They routed defending champion Dallas 115-93 on Monday before beating Utah 117-100 on Wednesday, marking the first time they've won their first two games by at least 17 points since joining the league in the 1976 NBA-ABA merger. Nene shot 10 for 13 and scored a game-high 25 points, while Ty Lawson followed up his 27-point night versus Dallas with 15 points. Lawson praised Nene for being assertive and finding his own shot. ''He's so unselfish sometimes we have to say, `Nene, go the basket, get a bucket,''' Lawson said. ''When he does that we know if he gets in trouble he can also find the open man. Sometimes we have to push him to get more aggressive.'' Al Harrington scored 18 off the bench and Andre Miller, who played the last two seasons for Portland, added 12 assists in a backup role. ''Every night is a mismatch with him, as long as he's aggressive,'' Miller said of Nene. ''We got the ball to him, made some cuts and played from there. Once he got some easy buckets it opened it up for everyone.'' Nene is averaging 14.6 points in his career versus the Blazers, which is his third-best against any team.
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