(Sports Network) - Rookie guard Damian Lillard hit one of what figures to be
many big shots over his NBA career last time out to give the Portland Trail
Blazers a victory.
The 22-year-old may have to come up clutch again on Thursday night with
Portland slated to be without star forward LaMarcus Aldridge in a meeting with
the up-tempo Denver Nuggets.
Aldridge had 20 points in Sunday's 95-94 victory over the New Orleans Hornets
before exiting with a sprained left ankle. The former second-overall pick of
the 2006 draft is averaging 21.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, but has
been unable to practice due to his injury and was declared out for this game
by head coach Terry Stotts.
"Obviously that's a lot of minutes, a lot of points and rebounds and our best
player," Stotts said. "So, different players are gonna have to do different
things, but we've done it before when other players have sat out."
Aldridge isn't the only player who could miss this game. Guard Nolan Smith has
been held out of practice due to illness and is questionable for tonight along
with forward Sasha Pavlovic (strained glute) and guard Wesley Matthews (left
"Everybody's got to ratchet it up a bit," said Stotts.
Lillard is certainly capable of doing that. The sixth overall pick of the most
recent draft capped a 16-point performance on Sunday by hitting a game-winning
3-pointer with just 0.3 seconds left on the clock and all the Hornets could
manage with the time left was a two-point bucket to account for the final
Portland had to hold on after taking a 12-point lead into the fourth frame.
"Their rebounding and 3-point shooting obviously kept them in the game and got
them in a position to win the game, but we bent but we didn't break. I was
pleased with that," Stotts said. "We could have pushed our lead a little bit
more. That bit us as the game went forward."
J.J. Hickson added a season-high 24 points to go along with 16 rebounds, while
Nicolas Batum became the first player since Jamaal Tinsley on Nov. 16, 2001 to
record at least 10 assists, five steals and five blocks in a game. Batum ended
with 11 points, a career-high 10 assists, five boards, five steals and five
blocks in an impactful effort that gave Portland a third straight victory to
match a season high.
The Trail Blazers, who haven't won four straight since March 2-8, 2011, are
3-1 on a six-game homestand that ends on Saturday against Phoenix.
Denver will look to push its winning streak to four straight, which would
match a season high. The Nuggets improved to 7-1 at home on the season with
Tuesday's 112-106 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs.
It wasn't easy as the Spurs cut a 15-point deficit to just three points with 4
1/2 minutes to play. However, Denver countered with a 7-2 run and was able to
hold off San Antonio.
"It was good to see that we could keep our composure and close the game out
like we did," said Nuggets guard Andre Iguodala, who had 14 points, nine
rebounds and six assists.
Danilo Gallinari had a season-high 28 points to go along with nine rebounds
and is averaging 21.3 points over his last four games.
"He got some matchups where his speed was effective. He got some one-on-one
stuff. He got to the free-throw line and made some threes," Denver head coach
George Karl said.
Kenneth Faried added 19 points and 11 boards, while Kosta Koufos pulled down
14 rebounds to match a career high for the Nuggets, who will play their 19th
road game of the campaign tonight. They are 7-11 as the guest so far.
The Nuggets have lost five straight in Portland, losing both trips there a
The Sports Network