Long story short, Brandon Roy left his jumper in Portland and Nene’ murdered the Blazers interior defense.
The game started off with a Nicolas Batum turnover and a quick foul on Brandon Roy. Unfortunately for Portland, the opening sequence was a harbinger of things to come as the Blazers played a step slow and an inch short the entire night.
LaMarcus Aldridge has been starting off well in the first quarters lately, so credit Denver’s coaching staff for making Aldridge’s life difficult. The Nuggets were quick to double team and keep Aldridge out of rhythm. At one point, Aldridge went to post up and four Denver players converged on him. One would think that with so much of Denver’s attention focused on protecting the paint, the three point line would be open for business, however Portland only took nine three-point-shots the entire game.
Early on, the Blazers seemed to somehow manage to both rush their shots and settle for jumpers. In contrast, Denver moved the ball inside and got calls. Basically, Denver started doing to Portland what Utah has done to Portland in every game this season; using point guard penetration to force Portland to collapse into the paint and short interior passes to open big men for easy buckets. The Blazers are so concerned with the initial penetration that a simple interior pass completely unravels the defense. I miss Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla.
Martell Webster came off the bench with a few ill-advised jumpers alongside some iffy defense, but soon found his rhythm. This included a highlight dunk over Chris “The Birdman” Anderson and Chris “The Birdman” Anderson’s mustache (<i>Editor’s note: I LIKE it!</i>)
Andre Miller single-handedly kept Portland in it through first half. He refused settling for jumpers and instead took it to the rim (Miller finished with 24 on the night). Portland went into the break down one.
If Roy would have gotten in on the act, Portland might have pulled it off. Instead, he made just 3 of 13 attempts.
As was symptomatic of the game as a whole, the little things just went wrong for Portland. Shots were just a tad off. Andre Miller forgot how to hit a technical free throw. All the while, Denver capitalized on misses and turnovers by getting out in transition for easy buckets.
The Playoffs are all about matchups, and if the Blazers happen to draw the Nuggets, they will get a steady diet of Nene’ cutting to the hoop, Chauncey Billups bullying into the paint, and Carmelo Anthony isolations—everything we’ve seen not just tonight, but all season. Portland did a decent job defending Anthony through three quarters, forcing the Nuggets star into turnovers and keeping him off the line. At the same time the Blazer defense couldn’t hold off Billups, Anthony, and Nene. The trio finished with 68 of Denver’s 109 points. Portland’s offense was dull, uninspired and only managed 92 points against a Nuggets team who had been giving up 103.2 over the previous ten games. Funny how these things go up and down so fast.
• Chris Anderson went down with an ankle injury and while he writhed in pain, someone accidentally dropped some sort of coin into the Birdman’s craw. I half expected a gumball to pop out in exchange. Get well soon Mr. Anderson, and please shave (<i>Ed: No Way!</i>).
• John Elway looks more like Gary Busey every day, it’s terrifying.