Blazers head to Denver for Northwest showdown

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Western Conference has six teams with at least 13 wins and the Portland Trail Blazers are one of them.

The Blazers are one of the hottest teams in the entire league and will make a trip to Denver Tuesday to face the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.

Portland had a season-best nine-game winning streak stopped with Friday's 112-99 loss to the league-leading Memphis Grizzlies. Portland got back on track two days later with a 107-93 triumph versus the Minnesota Timberwolves and LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Aldridge leads the Blazers in points (21.4) and rebounds (9.6), and has registered four double-doubles in the past five games.

Wesley Matthews scored 23 points versus the Timberwolves and Damian Lillard chipped in 17 to go with eight assists for Portland, which allowed 32 points in the fourth quarter and fended off what could have been a Minnesota rally.

"It was a struggle for most of the night just kind of getting into a rhythm," said Portland coach Terry Stotts, who reached 100 wins with the team. "When we were able to get some stops in the second and third quarter, that was important for us. That's when we're at our best, when we get some stops.

"I'm disappointed that they scored 32 in the fourth quarter. I would have liked to have a better defensive fourth quarter. ... But it's hard to be too disappointed with a win."

The Trail Blazers outrebounded Minnesota, 54-43, and have finished with more boards than their opponents in four of the last five games. Lillard scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and Matthews made six 3-pointers for a third consecutive game, a team record.

The Trail Blazers are 4-0 against Northwest opponents and 11-1 when scoring 100 or more points. They are seventh with 104.2 ppg and seventh in opponents' scoring (96.2).

Portland, which is 4-2 on the road, will host Indiana Thursday before heading east for five straight against New York, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago and Indiana.

Denver squeezed past the Utah Jazz, 103-101, Monday night in Salt Lake City and struggled in the second half. The Jazz had a 58-41 advantage over the last two quarters, but the Nuggets used a 36-20 difference in the second to get the win.

Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler were two of seven players to score in double digits and finished with 15 points apiece. Lawson handed out 12 assists, while Arron Afflalo scored 14 points before being ejected with 5:55 to play for a hard foul on Alec Burks. A flagrant foul type 2 is an immediate ejection.

Either way, the Nuggets held on for the win, their eighth in 10 games.

"It feels good to be on the winning side of things," Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw said. "A close game in a hostile environment, and we had to make the plays we needed to win the game and we were able to do it and have a positive experience behind that, so we'll take it."

Denver may be fourth in scoring with 105.4 ppg, but is 26th in opponents' scoring at 105.2 ppg. That could mean trouble with the Blazers coming into the Rocky Mountains with Aldridge, Lillard and the hot-shooting Matthews.

The Nuggets, who are 5-3 at home, will start a three-game trip east on Friday against Washington, Atlanta and Toronto. Nuggets center JaVale McGee has missed the last four games with a leg injury and is questionable Tuesday.

Portland is already 2-0 against Denver this season and has won six straight and 10 of the past 14 games between division rivals. The Blazers have won three straight at Denver, but are only 5-24 in the previous 29 matchups as the guest in this series.