Aldridge scores 44, Blazers beat Nuggets 110-105
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge’s 44-point outburst against the Denver Nuggets came the same day the All-Star starters were announced.
Aldridge wasn’t on the list. So naturally there were questions whether his new career-high was perhaps an answer to a perceived snub.
“It was nothing about that,” the Trail Blazers’ forward said. “We lost two games and we needed this win.”
Aldridge also had 13 rebounds in Portland’s 110-105 come-from-behind victory over the Nuggets on Thursday night. Wesley Matthews added 24 points for the Blazers, who snapped a two-game losing streak coming off a 2-2 road trip. The Blazers have not lost three straight this season.
Aldridge scored the team’s final 15 points: After missing three of four free throws, he settled down to make eight straight to close out the game.
It was his third career game with 40 or more points.
“It goes without saying, LaMarcus just keeps impressing everybody with what he’s doing,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said, ticking off the contributions: “He was aggressive to the basket, he made his jump shots, he made his free throws, he rebounded, he came up big when we needed him, he made passes out of the double teams when they doubled, he got blocked shots. He was fantastic.”
The Blazers trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, but chipped away at Denver’s lead to pull to 91-90 on Matthews’ turnaround fadeaway before taking the lead on his 15-foot jumper.
The teams wrestled for control, but Aldridge’s jumper put Portland up a 102-99 with 3:08 left.
Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov made consecutive baskets to regain the lead for Denver, and it was back-and-forth until Aldridge made four consecutive free throws to shouts of “M-V-P,” from the Portland crowd, giving the Blazers a 108-105 lead.
Chandler missed a jumper with 8 seconds left and Aldridge made more free throws for the final margin.
Chandler finished with 18 points for Denver, which has lost three straight and four of their last five games after a five-game winning streak.
“LaMarcus Aldridge, the buckets that he made, I can live with that,” said Denver coach Brian Shaw. “But some of the fouls that we committed to send him to the line without him having to really work for it, I thought is what hurt us, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Kenneth Faried got two quick fouls early in the game and had to sit, but the Nuggets still led 30-28 at the end of the first quarter, paced by Anthony Randolph off the bench.
Nate Robinson’s 3-pointer stretched Denver’s lead to 44-37, and the Nuggets went on to lead by as many as 12 points in the second quarter.
Portland went on a 9-0 run to close to 51-48, but Denver held on to 67-59 lead at the half.
Randy Foye hit a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to stretch Denver’s lead to 78-63. The Nuggets led 91-86 heading to the fourth.
Earlier in the day, Aldridge and teammate Damian Lillard were named to the 2014-16 U.S. men’s national team pool, the first step toward making the Olympic team. Faried was also invited.
The All-Star team starters were also announced before Thursday night’s game. Aldridge finished fifth in fan voting among Western Conference frontcourt players, while Lillard finished seventh among guards. Both players will have a chance to make the team if they are selected by the league’s coaches.
Aldridge, a two-time All-Star, has never been voted a starter by the fans. Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love will make up the Western Conference’s starting frontcourt this season in New Orleans.
Matthews thought Aldridge should have made it.
“What can you say? He’s an MVP candidate. Best power forward in the game,” Matthews said. “I’ve been saying that for two years now. He put it one display again tonight.”
Blazers owner Paul Allen addressed the media at halftime, talking on a wide range of topics including a contract extension for Aldridge, which the team will consider “at the appropriate time.”
NOTES: The Blazers defeated the Nuggets 113-98 in Denver their first meeting of the season on Nov. 1. ... Portland is the only team to have used the same starting lineup all season. ... The Nuggets announced earlier this week that forward Danilo Gallinari will miss the rest of the season after undergoing a second surgery on his left knee. Gallinari averaged 16.2 points per game last season for Denver. ... Actor Billy Dee Williams was at the game.