Nuggets have no answer for LaMarcus Aldridge, fall to Trail Blazers

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This is how a coaching adjustment can change a game.

In the first half, Ty Lawson was getting into the lane and carving up the Trail Blazers — he had 13 points, nine assists and led Denver to 67 first half points. Portland was getting its offense from LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 14 points in the first 24 minutes (and Wesley Mathews, who had 18 points before the break).

Blazers coach Terry Stotts made an adjustment, sliding the longer Nicolas Batum over to cover Lawson (instead of using Damian Lillard). The result was Lawson going 0-of-5 in the second half with just two assists. Meanwhile Brian Shaw made no adjustments on Aldridge — J.J. Hickson stayed on him and Aldridge went for 30 in the second half, including Portland’s final 15 points.

The result was a 110-105 Portland win in what was an up-tempo, entertaining game.

It’s also a game that summed up these teams two fairly well.

Portland’s defense was an issue in the first half as Denver was able to put up 67 points on 58.5 percent shooting, plus they hit 7-of-12 from three. Nate Robinson was doing his thing and added 13 points and Anthony Randolph had 12.

Portland’s defense just wasn’t that good — and with their offense it doesn’t matter most nights. That may come back to bite them in the playoffs. That said, Portland has defended better of late and did so in the second half of this game — it wasn’t just Batum, it was a team effort that held the Nuggets down.

Denver on the other hand has been hot and cold all season. It happens game-to-game, even quarter to quarter. Once Portland slid Batum on to Lawson there was no second player to create shots and direct the offense. Denver scored 38 points on 39.5 percent shooting in the second half after that monster first half. This has been the story of the Nuggets season. Hot and cold.

In the end, Aldridge got hot, Denver still covered him one-on-one with just Hickson, and the results were what you would expect. Portland picks up another home win and looks like a contender for stretches. And on Thursday night stretches were enough.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.