PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Raymond Feltonwas less concerned about showing up his old team than he was with helping his new one pull out a win.
Felton had 23 points, including a key 3-pointer down the stretch, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 111-102 on Thursday night to remain undefeated after three games.
“We showed some guts,” said Felton, who spent time last season with the Nuggets. “We showed we could get a tough win.”
Wesley Matthews had 25 points, including five 3-pointers in the second half, and Jamal Crawford finished with 22 points, 14 in the fourth quarter.
Portland, which opened the season with wins over Philadelphia and Sacramento, led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but the team was plagued by 25 turnovers.
Ty Lawson had 25 points and eight steals for the Nuggets. His 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter tied it at 98 before the Blazers pulled away.
It was the season’s first loss for Denver, which was coming off a 117-100 victory over Utah on Wednesday night.
While the Nuggets had just seven turnovers, they couldn’t hit from beyond the arc, making just four of 20 3-point attempts.
“We had a lot of open shots and we didn’t knock them down – simple as that,” Lawson said. “I don’t know how many threes we missed, and most of them were wide-open shots.”
The teams traded point guards on NBA draft night in June. The Blazers got Felton, now a starter, while the Nuggets got Andre Miller, who backs up Lawson.
The Nuggets also have former Blazers player Rudy Fernandez on their roster. The Spanish shooter was traded to Dallas on draft night, then sent to Denver in a deal earlier this month.
Nuggets coach George Karl noted Denver’s many connections with the Blazers, including his own friendship with Portland coach Nate McMillan.
“Your enemies motivate you,” Karl said. “But your friends really motivate you.”
Felton hugged Karl on the court just before the game started, and Miller was greeted with hearty applause when he came into the game midway through the first quarter.
Afterward, Felton said his motivation wasn’t to beat Denver, with whom he played in 21 games last season after starting the season with the Knicks.
“The city was good to me. The fans were good to me. Nothing against them,” he said. “Just trying to get the win.”
The Blazers jumped out to a 30-17 lead in the first quarter after Nicolas Batum‘s pass to Kurt Thomas for the layup under the basket. The 13-point lead came despite eight turnovers in the opening period.
Lawson pulled the Nuggets in front 57-55 early in the second half, but Matthews made four three pointers. The Blazers went back up 69-63 midway through the third quarter.
The Blazers clung to the lead until former teammate Fernandez made a layup and a 3-pointer to tie it at 84 early in the fourth.
After Lawson hit a 3-pointer to make it 98-all midway through the final period, Jamal Crawford hit a free throw – for his 14th point of the quarter – and Matthews sunk a jumper and a 3-pointer to give Portland a 104-98 lead.
Arron Afflalo made a pair of free throws to narrow it for Denver, but following some sloppy play by both sides, Felton hit his 3-pointer to give the Blazers a 107-100 lead with 1:45 left.
“At the end we just missed our assignments and left them open for the threes,” Lawson said.
LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers’ leading scorer, was held to 13 points. He blamed “heavy legs.”
“It’s tough out there, but definitely happy to see the guards carry us,” Aldridge said. “They made some big shots. I was trying to do my job and force two to play me, and find the guy who was open.”
NOTES: The home team has won the series between the Nuggets and the Blazers for the past eight meetings. The teams split their four games last season. … The Nuggets were 0 for 11 in 3-point attempts in the first half. … A fan in the stands held a sign in the fourth quarter reading, “Denver, where is Tebow when you need him?”
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