Updated at: 02/28/2013 10:08 PM
By ANNE M. PETERSON
(AP) PORTLAND, Ore. - Andre Miller scored the go-ahead layup with 24.9 seconds left against his former team and the Denver Nuggets held off the Portland Trail Blazers 111-109 on Wednesday night for their third straight victory.
Denver, which led by as many as 12 points in the first half, lost the lead to the Blazers late in the third quarter but reclaimed it when Ty Lawson’s layup made it 96-95 with 4:54 left.
After rookie Damian Lillard put the Blazers back up 101-100 with a layup, Andre Iguodala and Lawson gave Denver a 106-101 lead. Wesley Matthews answered with a 3-pointer and LaMarcus Aldridge added a turnaround jumper that tied it at 106 with 33.8 seconds left.
But Miller’s scoop under the basket gave the Nuggets back the lead, and Aldridge missed a jumper on the other end with 14 seconds left. Lillard hit on a 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left, but the Blazers fell short and Miller, who played for the Blazers from 2009-11, made free throws for the final margin.
Lawson finished with 30 points and Iguodala matched his season high with 29 for the Nuggets, who snapped a six-game losing streak at the Rose Garden.
Lillard led Portland with 26 points and J.J. Hickson had his 31st double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
The Nuggets were without starter Danilo Gallinari, the team’s leading scorer with an average of 16.9 points per game, for the second straight game because of a left thigh bruise. Wilson Chandler started again in his place. Even without Gallinari, the Nuggets defeated the Lakers 119-108 on Monday, their seventh straight win at home. Denver is currently sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference standings.
The Blazers were coming off a 92-86 victory over Boston on Sunday night that snapped a season-high seven-game losing streak.
The Blazers went on an 8-0 run capped by Lillard’s bank shot to pull within 43-37 midway through the second quarter, but the Nuggets led 58-50 at halftime, paced by Lawson’s 16 points.
The Blazers kept threatening in the third quarter, but Denver kept holding them off. After Lillard’s 3-pointer got Portland as close a 62-61, Kenneth Faried dunked and made a layup to stem the threat. Nicolas Batum’s dunk got the Blazers to 72-70, but Iguodala answered with a 3-pointer.
Rookie Meyers Leonard finally gave Portland lead with a dunk that made it 80-79 with 53 seconds left in the third quarter. For good measure, he dunked again over Miller to extend it.
Leonard, who turned 21 on Wednesday, celebrated by flexing his muscles Incredible Hulk-style. He finished with a career-high 13 points.
Faried tied it at 92 with a dunk, and Lawson’s layup gave Denver back the lead at 94-92 with just over six minutes left in the game. Wesley Matthews gave the Blazers back the lead with a 3-pointer, but turnovers hurt Portland.
NOTES: Lillard was given his trophy for winning the NBA Skills Challenge at All-Star weekend. Because the award is sponsored by Taco Bell, everybody at the Rose Garden was going to get a coupon for a free chalupa on the way out. ... The teams split their two earlier meetings this season, with each team winning at home.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)