The Denver Nuggets have their home opener Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers. It should be one of the most memorable home openers in recent history, with the team retiring the jersey of Dikembe Mutombo and wearing special rainbow skyline jersey to commemorate the event.
The Nuggets are 1-0 on the season, having defeated the New Orleans Pelicans, 107-102, despite 50 points from Anthony Davis. The Trail Blazers are 1-1, with a win over the Utah Jazz and a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Nuggets won their first game last season, defeating the Houston Rockets on the road, before coming home to Denver only to lose their home opener. Head coach Michael Malone has to be hoping to avoid a repeat of last year and start the season with a winning streak.
Who: Portland Trail Blazers (1-1) at Denver Nuggets (1-0)
When: Thursday, October 30th at 7:00 MST
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
How to watch/listen: Altitude, AM 950
Rival Blog: Blazer’s Edge
|PG||Damian Lillard||Emmanuel Mudiay||Portland|
|SG||C.J. McCollum||Will Barton||Portland|
|SF||Maurice Harkless||Danilo Gallinari||Denver|
|PF||Al-Farouq Aminu||Nikola Jokic||Denver|
|C||Mason Plumlee||Jusuf Nurkic||Denver|
|Bench||Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard, Shabazz Napier||Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Jameer Nelson, Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez||Denver|
Injuries: Festus Ezeli (out, knee), Gary Harris (questionable, groin), Darrell Arthur (questionable, knee)
Key Matchup: Nikola Jokic versus Al-Farouq Aminu
These two teams played in the preseason, and Aminu torched Jokic in the first quarter, making a bunch of 3-point shots to help the Trail Blazers to an early lead. The veteran wing has shot 36 percent while with Portland, and presents a difficult matchup for the Nuggets second year big man. Aminu is quick, able to run off screens and get open before Jokic can use his length to contest a field goal attempt. On defense, Aminu is strong enough to defend Jokic until help comes, and makes it difficult for Jokic to get the ball by using his agility to knock away incoming passes.
The Nuggets should know that Lillard and McCollum are going to get their points, one way or another. The real key to defeating Portland is making sure that the other guys don’t score enough points to put the game out of reach.
Key Statistic: 24
After one game, the Nuggets are the worst team in the league in turnovers per game. They had 24 turnovers against the Pelicans, a ludicrous number. The Nuggets only had one game last season with that many turnovers, in a February matchup against the Boston Celtics, which they lost by 20 points. The Nuggets were lucky to come away with a win against the Pelicans with that type of sloppy play.
The Trail Blazers are a much better team than the Pelicans. If the Nuggets can’t take care of the ball, they’re going to embarrass themselves in front of their own fans, on a night where the team is hopefully going to be playing in front of a full arena. You only get one chance at a first impression, so don’t f&^k this up!
Spotlight on: Kenneth Faried
The Manimal is the most popular player on the roster, at least in terms of local fans being able to identify a Nuggets player currently on the team. He may be coming off the bench tonight, which may surprise some fans that haven’t found out that he isn’t starting games so far this season.
The team needs Faried to have a great game. Coach Malone should try to run a play designed to get him an alley-oop as soon as possible after he checks into the game, to help inject energy into the fans. If he blocks a shot and does the Mutombo finger wag, people are going to go nuts.
Fans love The Manimal - it’s time for him to come out of the cage like his hair is on fire.
Prediction: Nuggets 109 - Trail Blazers 108
The fourth quarter is Damian Lillard time, but not tonight against the Nuggets. The crowd should be able to give the team a huge boost of energy, and with Mutombo in attendance, hopefully the players will respond by playing outstanding defense. I’m hoping that the Nuggets get a go-ahead bucket with 16 seconds left from Faried or Gallinari, and then get a defensive stop on Lillard as the clock winds down.
Who wants to win for Mutombo?