The Nuggets hung tough, but LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 11 rebounds and former Nuggets Arron Afflalo chipped in 21 and five to power the Portland Trail Blazers (47-25) to a 120-114 win over Denver (28-46) in a high-scoring affair Saturday night in Portland.

The Nuggets were without forward Danilo Gallinari, who was taking a breather on the second night of a back-to-back. In his place started J.J. Hickson, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Jameer Nelson finished with 22 points and five assists for his second straight nice night, Kenneth Faried added 14 points and ten rebounds, and Randy Foye had 17 points.

Afflalo, it’s fair to say, came out with a bit more juice than usual. He swiped the ball from Randy Foye for an easy two to start the game and nailed a jump shot for Portland’s third basket of the night. He had it going all evening, and finished 8-11 from the field on his way to the highest point total since he joined Portland at the trade deadline. I’d hate to see what he’d have done if former coach Brian Shaw was still roaming the sideline.

Afflalo slowed down a bit, but there was no stopping LaMarcus Aldridge all evening. That wasn’t a big surprise, as Faried had trouble staying with the all-star, and Hickson is an even worse defender than Faried. By the time Jusuf Nurkic – who finished 5-of-5 from the field – matched up against him, there wasn’t much he could do, not with Aldridge already feeling it.

Despite Aldridge doing what superstars do, Denver actually hung tough for most of the evening. After a Nelson three with 5:37 left in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets had crept within three points of Portland and were down 101-98.

From there though, the Nuggets went a full three minutes without a point, and Portland, thanks to Afflalo, Aldridge, and Nicolas Batum – who finished with 15 points – shut the door on Denver.

It makes sense that the front office doesn’t want the franchise to win games the rest of the way this season, and it’s important to get Gallinari rest in his first season back from injury, but it’s safe to wonder what might have happened Saturday had Gallinari been in the lineup. The Nuggets looked good and played tough against the Trail Blazers, and one more play-maker might have made the difference.

The Nuggets will have a few nights off before taking on the Jazz (who they beat easily Friday in Denver) Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. MT.

Zach Marburger is a staff writer for Mile High Sports. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @BurchBurger.

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