Lillard scored 32 in Blazers’ 112-105 win over Denver
AP Sports Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. — A fiery halftime speech from coach Terry Stotts spurred the Trail Blazers over the Nuggets.
Portland had fallen behind 57-50 at the break and the defense was struggling.
“He got after us, and pretty much told us what we were doing was not acceptable and we couldn’t keep doing it — putting ourselves in that position and not playing smart as we’re capable of and not playing as hard as we need to be to give ourselves a chance,” Damian Lillard said.
Lillard finished with 32 points and Portland handed Denver its fourth straight loss with a 112-105 victory on Sunday night.
CJ McCollum added 21 points for the Blazers, who have won five of their last six games. Portland came alive in the second half after Stotts’ speech and outscored Denver 36-15 in the third quarter.
“He got on us, he yelled at us a little bit, and it’s up to us to go out and answer the call,” Lillard said about the halftime talk. “I thought we did a great job responding.”
Jamal Murray hit a 3-pointer to pull Denver within 110-105 in the final seconds, but the rally came up short. It was the Blazers’ seventh straight victory over the Nuggets at the Moda Center.
Murray and Danilo Gallinari led the Nuggets with 19 points apiece and Kenneth Faried added 18. Fourteen of Murray’s career-high points came in the fourth-quarter rally. He made five 3-pointers.
Denver’s Gary Harris, who has started in four games for the Nuggets this season, was out because of a right ankle sprain. Harris started and had 13 points in the Nuggets 106-95 loss at home to Detroit on Saturday night. While he injured his ankle during the game, he returned to play.
Jameer Nelson started in his place on Sunday. Reserve forward Wilson Chandler, who has struggled with a left hamstring strain, also played and had 18 points.
“Once we’re aggressive and play as a team we can beat anybody, but we didn’t do that in the third quarter,” Chandler said. “They came out and just flipped it on us. They were the aggressors in the third quarter and they just jumped on us.”
The Blazers were coming off a 122-120 overtime victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. Afterward, Lillard said the Blazers needed to play well for longer stretches.
Portland went up 13-7 early on Meyers Leonard’s alley-oop dunk but Denver wrestled away the lead and went up 28-20 at the end of the first quarter on Nelson’s 3-pointer.
Jusuf Nurkic’s hook shot pushed Denver’s lead to 48-31 midway through the second quarter. The Blazers played their way back, with Maurice Harkless’ layup pulling Portland within 52-46.
Portland trailed 57-50 at the half, but closed to 58-55 on CJ McCollum’s layup. Portland took a 61-60 lead on Harkless’ 3-pointer and his fast-break layup stretched the advantage to 73-64.
Harkless finished with 17 points.
Asked about what he said at halftime, Stotts wouldn’t reveal much.
“We talked about defense,” he said.
Nuggets: Chandler has had six games this season with at least 10 points. He had 11 in the first half alone against Portland. … The Nuggets rank last in the league for turnovers with an average of 18 per game. Against the Blazers they had 18.
Trail Blazers: The Blazers beat the Nuggets 115-113 in overtime earlier this season in Denver. With six assists tonight, Damian Lillard surpassed Geoff Petrie for fourth place on Portland’s all-time list for assists with 2,058.
LILLARD-PROTESTS: There have been protests every night in Portland since Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump. At times the demonstrations have turned violent with property damage, a non-fatal shooting and 71 arrests on Saturday.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that people have done some of the things they have done during the protest. A lot of harm and damage has been done,” Lillard told ESPN. “I do understand their frustration, and I commend people wanting to come together for some kind of change. Tearing apart your own city just isn’t the place to begin, and also making your own city less of a safe place isn’t the answer.”
There has been increased security at the Moda Center since the election.
MURRAY’S BIG NIGHT: “I was getting worried missing them early,’ he said about his fourth-quarter surge. “ I was so wide open and I wasn’t hitting them so I wanted to make up for that.” In addition to his top game in terms of points and 3-pointers, the rookie out of Kentucky also had a season-best five rebounds.
Nuggets: Denver hosts the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
Trail Blazers: Portland hosts the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.
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