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Hickson's explosive night on boards not enough to lift Nuggets past Blazers

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The Denver Nuggets have lost eight of their past nine games, however, in tonight's game vs. the Portland Trail Blazers, they showed true determination and grit.

One player in particular stood out as a rising star, J.J. Hickson. Yes it is Hickson's seventh season, but he truly outdid himself this evening as he posted a career-high 25 rebounds, 15 of which were accumulated on the offensive boards. He was a force in the paint, especially in the fourth quarter. Hickson snagged an astounding 13 rebounds in the fourth and brought the Nuggs within two points of a team with the NBA's six best overall record.

Although the Nuggs out rebounded their visitors from Portland 64-41, their 20 percent three-point percentage was little help, not to mention the Blazers made 32 of 38 free throws on their way to a 100-95 victory. The leader of the pack was no surprise in Damian Lillard as he posted a tremendous 31 points, to accompany nine assists and seven rebounds.

Most analysts won't take anything away from this game except for the fact that it was another victory for the up-and-coming Blazers. But that's not the whole story. This was a productive night for the Nuggets as they showed a lot of heart against a very tough opponent.

Hickson gained a lot of respect amongst his peers, as he should, considering he's the 15th best rebounder in the entire league according to espn.com with 9.2 per game. Another player who deserves a second look is Denver's recently acquired point guard Aaron Brooks. As Brooks put up 14 points to go along with six assists and five rebounds, and yet he did not play a single minute of the fourth quarter. The real head scratcher is that neither Hickson nor Brooks started the game tonight.

If the Nuggets want to get back in the win column, they're gonna need to make some drastic changes to their starting line up.

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