NBA round-up: Lillard steps up in Aldridge absence to lead Blazers past Nuggets

Indiana Pacers improved their league-leading record, Mike Dunleavy and Joakim Noah combined for 42 points for the Chicago Bulls while DeMar DeRozan scored 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter for the Toronto Raptors.

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, centre, drives to the basket during the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at the Moda Center on February 25, 2014. Craig Mitchelldyer / USA TODAY Sports
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DENVER // Damian Lillard made up for the absence of fellow All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge by scoring 31 points in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 100-95 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

Lillard scored 12 in the third quarter when it looked as if the Blazers were headed for a blowout win, but he saved his biggest shots for late in the fourth after the Nuggets had trimmed an 18-point deficit to two.

Lillard helped Portland overcome a terrific performance by Denver’s J.J. Hickson, who pulled down a career-high 25 rebounds, including 15 off the offensive glass. Hickson helped the Nuggets to a 64-41 advantage on the glass.

The Blazers again went with a smaller lineup with Aldridge missing his fourth straight game with a strained left groin, and Dorell Wright helped make up for Aldridge’s team-high 23.9 points and 11.4 rebounds by giving Denver another long-range shooter to defend.

As Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said before tip-off when talking about Aldridge’s absence, “There’s a big sigh of relief that you don’t have to deal with that, but at the same time it just creates a different type of problem: They’re one of the best – if not the best – 3-point shooting teams in the league. They’re the best free-throw shooting team in the league. They’re the highest-scoring team in the league.”

Six Blazers scored in double figures, including Nicolas Batum’s 16 points.

Aldridge averaged 34.5 points in the Blazers’ two earlier games against Denver this season and the Trail Blazers missed him in the fourth quarter when it was tougher to close this one out than they had expected when they surged to a 79-61 lead in the third.

Randy Foye led Denver with 17 points.

Denver again was without Ty Lawson, who leads the Nuggets with averages of 18 points and 8.8 assists. He’s missed seven straight games with a broken rib.

PACERS 118, LAKERS 98

INDIANAPOLIS // Paul George scored 12 of his 20 points in the third quarter, Evan Turner had 13 points in his Pacers debut, and Indiana improved its league-leading record to 43-13.

Kent Bazemore finished with a career-high 23 points and Jodie Meeks added 15 for the Lakers (19-38), who have the worst record in the West. The loss also ended Los Angeles’ three-game winning streak at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Lakers stayed closer than expected through the first 2 quarters and trailed just 59-58 early in the third.

BULLS 107, HAWKS 103

ATLANTA // Mike Dunleavy scored 22 points and Joakim Noah had 20 points and 12 rebounds, helping the Bulls hold on for the road win.

Carlos Boozer had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago, and Kirk Hinrich scored 14 points, including six free throws in the final 44 seconds. The Bulls have won six of seven.

Jeff Teague had 26 points but made two costly turnovers late in the game for the Hawks, who have lost nine of 10. Shelvin Mack had 17 points.

TIMBERWOLVES 110, SUNS 101

PHOENIX // Kevin Love had 33 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, powering Minnesota to the win.

The Timberwolves trailed by eight with 7:57 to play, and then outscored the Suns 24-6. Love, who got his first career triple-double at Utah on Saturday, was 10 for 22 from the field.

Rookie Shabazz Muhammad had a career-high 20 points and Corey Brewer added 18 for Minnesota.

RAPTORS 99, CAVALIERS 93

CLEVELAND // DeMar DeRozan scored 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, and the Raptors won for the sixth time in seven games.

DeRozan dunked on a baseline drive and added two free throws to give the Raptors a 94-91 lead with 1:23 remaining. The All-Star hit three more free throws in the final 27 seconds to put away the game.

Kyrie Irving, who played 45 minutes and the entire second half because of Cleveland’s depleted roster, had 25 points and nine assists. Cleveland has lost three straight after winning six in a row and fell 5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

WIZARDS 115, MAGIC 106

WASHINGTON // John Wall scored 27 points, and the Wizards survived their first game after Nene’s latest injury.

Trevor Ariza added 22 points and Marcin Gortat had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards, who made 10 of 16 3-pointers and have won a season-high four in a row to move one game above .500.

They also improved to 2-6 this season without Nene, who sprained the MCL in his left knee Sunday in a 96-83 win at Cleveland.

ROCKETS 129, KINGS 103

SACRAMENTO, Calif. // James Harden scored a season-high 43 points before resting for all of the fourth quarter, and the Houston Rockets routed the Sacramento Kings 129-103 on Tuesday night.

Harden helped Houston go ahead by 25 points in the first quarter, 31 in the second and 33 in the third. He shot 11 of 20 from the floor, made 15 of 16 free throws and added eight assists, three steals and two rebounds.

Dwight Howard left briefly after banging his right knee but returned to finish with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Chandler Parsons had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets, who have won 10 of their last 11 games.

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