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The Denver Nuggets played nine guys against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, and seven of them reached double-figures in scoring during a 104-95 Denver win at the Pepsi Center. The win was much needed for the Nuggets, who entered as losers of five of their last six games. Denver improves to 19-17 with the win, while Portland falls to 18-17 in defeat.
Ty Lawson returned to the Denver lineup tonight and finished with 18 points and nine assists. Center Timofey Mozgov added 14 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Forwards Kenneth Faried and Al Harrington each contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds for George Karl's team in the victory. Arron Afflalo added 12 points and six assists.
The Portland Trail Blazers are a half-game in front of the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and through the first half tonight, the Nuggets are playing like a team who wants to change that. The Nuggets lead Portland 62-45 at halftime at the Pepsi Center behind a stellar all-around scoring attack.
Ty Lawson is back in the Nuggets lineup, and finished the first half with seven points and five assists. Three Denver scorers reached double-figures. Al Harrington came off the bench to score 11 points, while Timofey Mozgov and rookie forward Kenneth Faried each have 10 points. Rookie Jordan Hamilton came off the bench to add nine points on 4-of-6 shooting in the half for Denver.
It's been a rough stretch recently for the Denver Nuggets, but at least they'll have starting point guard Ty Lawson back in the lineup when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday. The team also announced that three other key players, center Nene, small forward Danilo Gallinari and shooting guard Rudy Fernandez, will still be on the sideline, though.
Lawson missed Denver's two games before the All Star Break while nursing an ankle injury, and the team struggled badly in consecutive defeats against the Spurs and the Clippers. He practiced on Tuesday with his teammates and didn't have any issues, so he's good to go for Wednesday night's game.
The other three players aren't so lucky, though. Gallinari is closing in on his return from an ankle injury that's kept him out for weeks, Nene is dealing with a calf issue that's kept him out of the team's past seven games, and Fernandez has missed the past four games with a strained back.
They're all key rotation players, though, so getting them back into the lineup will be integral for Denver to make a run towards the playoffs.
The Denver Nuggets have seen better days. Last we saw them during a 15-point home loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Denver was without four key players: Nene, Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, and Rudy Fernandez. A rash of injuries has cooled a hot start, and the Nuggets are now fighting just to stay above .500 tonight vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Nuggets (18-17) have lost five or their last six games and are just 4-10 in February. The Blazers (18-16) are a half game in front of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With four quality teams fighting for one spot out West, it's not too early to call these games vital for the Nuggets.
Game date, time: Wednesday, February 29, 7:00 p.m.
Location: Pepsi Center
The 2012 NBA playoffs are still a few months away, but with the All-Star Break over the Denver Nuggets are focused on trying to get every next win and secure a spot in the Western Conference bracket. The Nuggets join the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz as quality teams chasing the current No. 8 seed Portland Trail Blazers and No. 7 seed Memphis Grizzlies for those final places in the playoff picture. After storming out to an impressive 15-7 record to start the season, Denver suffered injuries to Nene, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, and slowly faded to an 18-17 mark at the break. The second half will have to be much more consistent if they hope to land a spot in the postseason tournament.
SB Nation's Tom Ziller broke down the Western Conference race on Tuesday, and created some measure of strength of schedule going down the stretch. Games against the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and any road games against Western Conference teams currently in the playoffs are referred to as "AAAHH games." Home games against teams in the West race are called "UMMM games." Road games against the No. 3 through No. 7 seeds in the East (Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks) are "YEESH games." All remaining contests are "YEAH games." Here is what Ziller had to say about the Nuggets:
Current record: 18-17
Games behind No. 8: 0.5
AAAHH games remaining: 10
UMMM games remaining: 6
YEESH games remaining: 1
YEAH games remaining: 14
Denver is now in the No. 9 spot, but a favorable schedule should give the Nuggets an advantage over the Blazers. Health for Nene, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson would help even more, and a re-signed Wilson Chandler would be nice.
Thanks to a rough stretch prior to the All-Star break, the pressure is beginning to mount on the Denver Nuggets, who have slipped to ninth place in the Western Conference. The Nuggets are just 3-7 over their last 10 games, but they can turn the page starting Wednesday when they host Portland, which happens to be the team directly ahead of them in the conference standings.
The full Denver Nuggets schedule can be seen here, and this is the week ahead:
Wednesday, Feb. 29: vs. Portland Trail Blazers (7:00 p.m. MT, Altitude)
LaMarcus Aldridge leads Portland in scoring with 22.3 points per game and had 29 points on 13-18 shooting the last time these teams met, which was a 20-point Trail Blazers win.
Friday, March 2: at Houston Rockets (6:00 p.m. MT, Altitude)
The Rockets represent another good opportunity for Denver, as they're just 2.5 games ahead of the Nuggets in the conference standings. Kevin Martin leads the team in scoring with 18.0 points per game.