for this game

Shorthanded Nuggets hold off Blazers in Northwest clash

Dec 23, 2008 - 5:56 AM By Derek Nagy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DENVER (Ticker) -- The Denver Nuggets didn't miss Carmelo Anthony - at least not on this night.

Playing without their injured superstar for at least the next two games, the Nuggets clamped down defensively and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 97-89 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday to snap a tie atop the Northwest Division. The game was the first half of a home-and-home series between the clubs that will conclude Tuesday in Portland.

The Nuggets needed to make up for the scoring absence of Anthony, who is leading the team with 20.5 points per game. Anthony was sidelined with a right elbow contusion, but the Nuggets survived thanks to 19 points apiece from Chauncey Billups and Nene.

"I don't think I can define it, other than it was a big win," Nuggets head coach George Karl said. "Defensively as the game went along, I thought we got stronger."

However, it was the role players off the bench who came up biggest as Denver snapped a three-game skid.

The Nuggets were nursing a two-point edge midway through the fourth quarter before reserve forward Linas Kleiza buried a 3-pointer. After LaMarcus Aldridge answered with a dunk on the other end, J.R. Smith buried back-to-back long jumpers to push Denver's advantage to 92-85.

"We just played great together," Smith said. "(We) played great team ball, moved the ball, gang-rebounded and played defense. That's what we need to do to win, with or without (Anthony)."

The Blazers pulled back to within four late in the period, but Billups found Kleiza for a layup as the Nuggets held on.

"The aggressive team normally wins the game and I feel they were the more aggressive team tonight," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "For whatever reason, we didn't attack the basket or move the ball. We can play much better than that."

Kenyon Martin had 12 rebounds and Nene also had 11 boards, giving him his seventh double-double of the season.

Denver's defense did the trick on Portland superstar Brandon Roy, holding him to just eight points - just four nights after he torched the Phoenix Suns with a career-high 52 points.

"It was tough, tough to find our rhythm," Roy said. "They did a good job of loading up tonight, lots of help defense, forced me into some tough looks. They did a pretty good job tonight."

Roy entered the game with five consecutive outings with 29 or more points, averaging 36.4 points over that span. But the Nuggets limited him to just 3-of-11 shooting.

"Any time you want to be successful against a player like that it has to be a team effort," Billups said. "Dahntay (Jones) started out great on him, J.R. (Smith) had some good minutes. It was a team effort."

Aldridge led Portland with 18 points, while Travis Outlaw added 15 off the bench.