The Portland Trail Blazers have put together back-to-back wins, but their play at times has brought reminders of the issues that led to the losing streak that preceded those victories.
Another matchup with the Denver Nuggets could bring out their best.
The Blazers look to win an eighth consecutive meeting with the visiting Nuggets on Saturday night.
Portland (46-25) ended a season-high five-game slide with Wednesday’s 92-89 win over Utah, then defeated Phoenix 87-81 on Friday. The Blazers, though, needed to outscore the Jazz 37-24 in the fourth quarter before rallying from an eight-point deficit in the final quarter against the Suns.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth Friday for Portland, which shot just 40.4 percent overall and missed 10 of 18 from the free-throw line.
”I was just trying to find a rhythm, and then I made one shot, and then kind of played off of that,” Aldridge said. ”My teammates kept looking for me. I was just trying to make shots for us.”
Nicolas Batum went 1 for 6 from the floor and scored five points in his return after missing the previous two with back problems. Chris Kaman had four and 11 rebounds off the bench after sitting out the last three with a shoulder injury.
Although the Blazers struggled for a majority of the contest, coach Terry Stotts won’t complain about the victory. Portland is 2 1/2 games back of Houston for the Western Conference’s third seed.
”I’m really proud of the way we continued to compete,” Stotts said.
Portland has won seven straight meetings with the Nuggets since last losing April 14, 2013. Aldridge had a season-high 39 points and 11 rebounds before Robin Lopez scored with one second remaining to beat Denver 105-103 in the third and most recent meeting this season Dec. 2.
The Nuggets were coached in those matchups by Brian Shaw, who was fired March 3 and replaced with Melvin Hunt on an interim basis. Hunt is making his case for the full-time gig, going 8-6 since the switch after beating Utah 107-91 on Friday.
Ty Lawson and Jameer Nelson scored 18 points apiece for Denver (28-45), which has won two of three. Lawson also added nine assists.
”The kid is playing some of the best basketball I’ve seen him play,” Hunt said of Lawson. ”Ty set the tone, he set the table. He spoon-fed some people. He generated offense for different guys in different ways.
”That speed is special. It’s a special weapon.”
Danilo Gallinari scored 13 points despite playing through a sore right triceps. He’s totaled 21 while shooting 7 of 24 from the field over the last two since netting a career-high 40 in Sunday’s win at Orlando.
”The game just flowed," Hunt said.. ”We weren’t looking for certain things, just kind of played and found offense – the offense found us. We fell into a lot of things that I’d love to say I created, but it was kind of created from them playing hard.”
Lawson has averaged 24.7 points in the three meetings with Portland this season, including a season-high 32 on Nov. 12 and 24 and 13 assists in the last matchup.