Van Exel's 26 lead Portland; Melo limited to 7 points

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Ruben Patterson got a lot of satisfaction
limiting high-scoring Carmelo Anthony to just seven points.

Patterson was all over Anthony in Portland's 97-94 victory over
Denver on Wednesday night, holding him to single digits for just
the sixth time in his career.

"I think I got my job done," said a smiling Patterson, who has
been putting emphasis on his defense as well as his offense.

Patterson got a lot of help from Theo Ratliff and Joel

"It was hard. If I beat Ruben, then it was Theo. And if I beat
him, then it was Przybilla coming," Anthony said. "So they were
making it hard for me."

Nick Van Exel scored 26 points, and Damon Stoudamire added 17
points and 10 assists to help the Trail Blazers win for the third
time in five games after a six-game losing streak. Portland also
snapped new Denver coach George Karl's three-game winning streak.

"You want to win them all, but if you'd told me when I started
we'd be 3-1 I probably would have given you a lot of money," Karl

Then he turned serious: "We need to stay focused now. We can't
have a lull."

Rookie Sebastian Telfair hit a 3-pointer and Darius Miles -- in
his first game back after a two-game suspension -- had a dunk off
Stoudamire's jumper to give the Trail Blazers an 81-76 lead midway
through the final period.

After Van Exel made a 3-pointer with 2 minutes left, Ruben
Patterson's tip-in made it 89-83 for Portland and the game slipped
away from the Nuggets.

Miles was suspended by the Blazers for insubordination and
conduct detrimental to the team. He entered the game early in the
second quarter to a smattering of boos from the Rose Garden crowd.

Miles' suspension came after he blew up at coach Maurice Cheeks
during a practice session last week. Miles later released an
apology to fans, but conspicuously did not include Cheeks.

Miles said he stood by his statement. As for his relationship
now with Cheeks, he said, "We're cool, he's a good man."

Stoudamire said he hoped Miles learned from the incident.

"I think we can get through it, but we need people to grow
up," Stoudamire said.

Andre Miller had 27 points and nine assists for the Nuggets, who
were coming off a 96-76 home victory over New York on Tuesday

The Blazers also played the second of back-to-back games, after
a 92-79 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.

The Trail Blazers held Anthony scoreless in the first half.
Anthony was 0-for-6 from the floor in the half, and 3-for-14 for
the game.

"You've got to give a lot of credit to Ruben. ... People don't
realize how well he's playing defensively," Przybilla said. "He
shuts down every small forward when he's on the court. As a team we
realize that."

Portland was nearly single-handedly guided by Van Exel in the
half. He had 19 points, including a 3-pointer that made it 46-39.
That was the Blazers' biggest lead en route to a 49-45 halftime

Portland's Zach Randolph, who leads the team with an average of
19.9 points, came off the bench again and had 19 points.

Denver hasn't won four straight since Dec. 4-10.

"We knew coming in that they would either have a good game or a
bad game and when Van Exel and Stoudamire started hitting shots, it
was going to be a good night," Anthony said.

Game notes
Portland guard Derek Anderson missed the game because of a
sinus infection. He also has continuing problems with a double root
canal he had last week. ... Denver's Francisco Elson missed his
second straight game because of plantar facitis in his right foot.
... The Nuggets were 4-0 against the Blazers last season. ...
Denver's 5-foot-5 guard Earl Boykins recorded his sixth blocked
shot of the season in the fourth quarter. His previous season high
was four during the 2002-03 season in 68 games with Golden State.