Nuggets at Blazers: Nuggets take on rising star Damian Lillard in Rose Garden for second time this season

USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets will face a tough challenge in Portland's Rose Garden tonight, possibly without the services of Danilo Gallinari for a second straight game.

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 59
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vs
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36-22 (12-19 on the road)
1-1
26-30 (18-9 at home)
February 27th, 2013 - 8:30 PM (MT)
Rose Garden - Portland, OR
TV Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson
PG Damian Lillard
Andre Iguodala
SG Wesley Matthews
Wilson Chandler
SF Nicolas Batum
Kenneth Faried
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
Kosta Koufos
C J.J Hickson
Notes
You're here! Blogs Blazers Edge
Danilo Gallinari (day to day) Injuries Elliot Williams (out), Wesley Matthews (day to day)
Denver is 25-8 when registering nine or more steals Stat Portland has allowed an average of 16 fast break points in its last three games

I may sound like a broken record, but the Nuggets cannot afford to continue to drop winnable games on the road and still hope to achieve home court advantage in the first round. Currently, the Nuggets are just 2 1/2 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the 4th seed, with a critical matchup for the series tiebreaker on March 15th. Yet if the Nuggets can't find a way to win at least a few of these remaining road games, it may well render that final matchup with the Grizz moot.

Tonight, the Nuggets will scrap against a Rookie of the Year candidate in Damian Lillard and a Trailblazers team that thinks it might just be able to squeak into the 8th seed of the Western conference. The Blazers recently snapped a 7 game losing streak with a 92-86 victory over the Boston Celtics in the perpetually loud Rose Garden and are within 4 games of the Houston Rockets for the final playoff spot. There's no question that the Nuggets will have their work cut out for them in thorny Portland, where they are just 3-10 in their last thirteen trips.

Compounding that fact is Danilo Gallinari's left thigh injury, which may see him sitting out for a second game in a row. Danilo was limited in practice Tuesday, and mentioned "I thought the recovery would be a little faster but it's not going very fast." Mea culpa - I certainly did not think Gallinari's injury in the loss at the Wizards was severe, but if it ends up being bad enough to cause him to miss two straight games, it's certainly worse than I thought. As much as the Nuggets need this game, though, they need to be healthy going into the playoffs. If Gallo doesn't feel he can go, I'd prefer he sit entirely (instead of limping around the court).

The Blazers are dealing with an injury to a key piece of their own in Wesley Matthews, who is reportedly "not even close to 80 percent" as he plays through a combination of ankle, leg and elbow injuries. It's a strong possibility that we'll see Wilson Chandler inserted into Danilo's spot again, as he was for the Lakers game. Wesley Matthews will reportedly attempt to play through the pain - hopefully, that means advantage Nuggets with a fully healthy Wilson Chandler.

Speaking of Wilson Chandler, he's continuing to impress me with his play of late. Ill Will is like a (better shooting) clone of Andre Iguodala, and the two of them are capable of frustrating even the most dynamic opposing wings with suffocating defense. Chandler's been an admirable fill-in with Gallo's recent absence, and it would be great to see him his continue his efficient, all-around game. The Nuggets will need both Chandler and Iguodala to be at the top of their games to check Nicolas Batum (who loves to explode against the Nuggets, for some reason) and Damian Lillard's propensity to go nuclear at any moment.

I'm cautiously optimistic that the Nuggets can pull this game out tonight. JaVale McGee has been seeing more minutes with his improved play, and the Trailblazers - like many teams - simply don't have anyone who can match his sheer physical gifts. Continuing to force the issue in the paint against a team featuring 6'9" J.J. Hickson as its starting center can only pay dividends for Ty Lawson, who has now scored 20+ in 7 straight games, the longest such stretch of his career. When the Nuggets have two or more players score 20 or more, they are 14-6, and have won their last 11 games doing so. Ty has proven that he's capable of getting his points against any team in the league, but with Gallo likely to be out, the Nuggets will need someone to pour in his points.

Nuggets of Wisdom

- Make a damn 3! - The Nuggets set an NBA record for three point futility (0-22) the last time they visited the Blazers. There's no way that happens again. Right? Right?

- Make mine a double (double) - Denver is 10-2 when 2 or more players register double-doubles. I'm looking at you, Faried and Lawson.

- Transition Kills - When the Nuggets score more points off turnovers than their opponents this year, they are 24-5. They have one of the best transition games in the league, and when they also take care of the ball, they are very difficult to beat (11-2 when committing 10 or fewer turnovers).

Blazers Edge has your perspective from the flipside.

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