With the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets squaring off on Thursday night, it would have been unwise to imagine a defensive battle about to play out. With two of the fastest-paced teams in the NBA that rely heavily on offensive production to bring success matched up, defense was hardly the expectation. It was also far from what we got, as well.
The Blazers and Nuggets were locked in a bit of a shootout, ultimately won by Portland by a score of 110-105. The Nuggets provided a balanced attack with six players reaching double-figures, the Trail Blazers rode on the shoulders of their stars. Damian Lillard had a solid game, but forward LaMarcus Aldridge was the beast that couldn’t be contained on Thursday.
Aldridge flat-out went off against the Nuggets. Playing 38 minutes—a miniscule number in relation to his production—the soon-to-be-All-Star-reserve put up 44 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks while shooting 15-29 from the floor and getting to the line 17 times as well. Aldridge simply couldn’t be contained, which was both a testament to his great play and the awful post defense of the Nuggets.
The Nuggets post defense has been an issue for them all season. Their starting frontcourt of J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried simply isn’t capable of defending most post players, much less an elite big man like Aldridge. On the year, the Nuggets are 6.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively without Faried on the floor and 7.4 points per 100 possessions better with Hickson grabbing some pine.
Portland and Denver are in vastly different situations right now. While the Blazers are trying to stay atop the West after their unbelievable start to the year, the Nuggets are trying to still work out the kinks and establish themselves as a postseason team in the competitive West. With the way Aldridge abused the Nuggets’ frontcourt on Thursday, where these two teams currently stand is pretty evident.