Lillard, Blazers hammer Nuggets on road
DENVER — A little bit tired and drained entering the second night of back-to-back games, the Portland Trail Blazers nevertheless put together a startling offensive flurry.
So startling that Damian Lillard had to take a moment to fully comprehend what his team accomplished — 84 points in the first half.
“That’s the points you score in a full game,” Lillard said.
It certainly made for an easy rest of the way.
Lillard had 27 points and a season-high nine assists as the Blazers used a big first half to rout the Denver Nuggets 130-113 on Wednesday night.
The 84 points by the Blazers in the opening half was one basket away from matching the team record for a half (86) set against Golden State on Jan. 5, 1986.
Even more, the last time a team scored that many in any half was March 25, 2011, when Golden State had 84 in the first half against Toronto, according to STATS.
“It felt great, because everything that we wanted to do, you’re in the flow of doing it,” Lillard said. “You want to get out in transition, play unselfish, you want to make shots. You want to defend. We did all those things. That’s as well as we’ve done that all season.”
So, was that as good as Portland can play?
“I don’t want to put a ceiling on that,” said Robin Lopez, who scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half. “We were a little fortunate. Shots were falling. Part of that is kismet. Part of that is moving the ball. Part of that is us.”
The Blazers showed no signs of fatigue, despite expending plenty of energy the night before in coming back from a 23-point deficit to hold off Charlotte at the buzzer.
They also beat Denver in Portland on Sunday, in a tighter game (116-100). This time they expected more energy out of the Nuggets, who dropped their sixth straight game in front of a small crowd on a bitterly cold night.
“We were expecting their best shot, expecting them to come out fired up,” Lillard said. “It felt kind of dry, with the crowd and everything. We knew that we would have to create our own energy.
“We did that.”
LaMarcus Aldridge usually gives the Nuggets nightmares, but he was kept in check, finishing with 12 points. He averaged 28.3 points against Denver a season ago, and had a career-high 44 points in a game last January.
This was the first time all year Nuggets coach Brian Shaw had a full squad at his disposal. It didn’t help. Shaw couldn’t find the right combination to slow down the Blazers, who led 84-50 at the break. That’s quite a first-half explosion, especially considering Indiana beat Miami 81-75 earlier in the night.
On a frigid night outside the Pepsi Center — minus-3 degrees and falling — the Nuggets were just as cold inside. They shot 37.8 percent in the first half, including 1 for 8 from 3-point range, leading to plenty of boos from the sparse crowd.
“It’s not easy for them to see us play like that,” Danilo Gallinari said. “I understand them. Hopefully, we can turn those boos into applause the next game.”
Lapses on defense proved costly for Denver, said Ty Lawson, who led the team with 32 points.
“Have to play better,” he said.
Denver actually went on a 15-0 run in the third quarter and still trailed by 21 points. Lillard ended any chance of a comeback when he hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the quarter to restore the big lead.
The game was so lopsided that Portland’s starters were on the bench for the final quarter.
“I didn’t (see this coming),” Lillard said. “Everybody was focused.”
Trail Blazers: Allen Crabbe filled in for Nicolas Batum, who was sidelined with a bruised knee. Crabbe finished with seven points. ... Reserve Chris Kaman had 16 points.
Nuggets: The minute restrictions were finally lifted for Nate Robinson and Gallinari, who are both returning from knee injuries. ... J.J. Hickson had 14 points and 11 rebounds in his second game back. He missed the opening five games of the year, serving a suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug program.
Trail Blazers: Host Brooklyn on Saturday.
Nuggets: Visit Indiana on Friday.