With .7 seconds left on Tuesday night against Memphis, the Nuggets looked like they would close their five game road trip with a 3-2 record and head back home with a boost of confidence. Instead, the Grizzlies stole the win and things for Denver have gone downhill since. Denver remained winless at home following an absolute beating by Golden State and a tough loss last night to Detroit in which the Nuggets lack of effort and questionable rotations doomed them from the start.
To make matters worse, injuries continue to plague the Mile High crew almost daily now. Wilson Chandler made his return to the bench lineup last night, but now Gary Harris is listed as doubtful for tonight's game after hurting his ankle against the Pistons. The Nuggets still remain without Will Barton, Darrell Arthur and Jarnell Stokes for the time being.
The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, are off to a hot start this season and are winners of four of their last five games. The Nuggets hosted Portland in their first home game of the season October 29, but blew a lead late in the fourth quarter before succumbing to Damian Lillard in overtime.
Last week the Nuggets lost to Detroit on Saturday, then went on the road and surprisingly blew out Boston on the second night of a back to back. Denver lost to the Pistons again last night, and now are on the road for yet another game on the second night of a back to back. Will they respond in the same manner this time around, or will the Trail Blazers be too much for this team?
Who: Denver Nuggets (3-6) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (6-4)
When: 7:00 P.M. MDT
Where: Moda Center, Portland OR
How to watch: Altitude
Rival Blog: Blazer's Edge
|PG||Emmanuel Mudiay||Damian Lillard||Portland|
|SG||Jamal Murray||CJ McCollum||Portland|
|SF||Danilo Gallinari||Maurice Harkless||Denver|
|PF||Kenneth Faried||Myers Leonard||Even|
|C||Jusuf Nurkic||Mason Plumlee||Denver|
|Key bench guys||Nikola Jokic, Wilson Chandler, Jameer Nelson, Juancho Hernangomez||Allen Crabbe, Ed Davis, Evan Turner, Jake Layman||Denver|
Injury Report: Wilson Chandler, questionable (hamstring); Gary Harris, doubtful (ankle); Will Barton, out (ankle); Darrell Arthur, out (knee); Jarnell Stokes, out (foot); Al-Farouq Aminu, out (calf); Festus Ezili, out (knee)
Three Questions for Tonight's Game
1. Who will be in the starting lineup?
Coach Michael Malone shook things up last night against Detroit by inserting Kenneth Faried into the starting lineup in place of Nikola Jokic, presumably at Jokic's request. However, Malone noted in his post game press conference that Faried wasn't the solution after Denver let the Pistons take a sizable first quarter lead and that some more experimentation would be needed. As of this writing nothing has been solidified yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if Juancho Hernangomez got the nod given his solid play of late. It also wouldn't surprise me if Malone changed nothing at all.
2. How will Mudiay and the centers respond?
Also in his post game presser, Malone made several unusual comments regarding the specific play of both Emmanuel Mudiay and the combo of Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic. Specifically, Malone said "Our turnovers are an epidemic and can't have our starting point guard averaging five turnovers per game, it's killing us right now," and that "we got nothing from our centers tonight." Mudiay did have five turnovers last night, but put up 19 points on top of that and shot well from deep. Last week following the game when he didn't make a single field goal, Mudiay bounced back and torched Boston for 30 points, including 24 in the first quarter.
Nurkic and Jokic both had a night to forget, combining for just six points and five rebounds between the two against Detroit. Now that Jokic will be coming off the bench at his natural center position, one would hope that he will return to his jaw-dropping form from last year and this summer, but that didn't really show on the stat sheet against the Pistons.
3. Will the turnovers ever stop?
The Nuggets are the worst team in the league in turnovers, giving up the ball 17.4 times per game. Not much more needs to be said here, but it's hard to expect wins when you're playing undisciplined basketball like that. Now would be as good of a time as any to clean things up and protect the ball.
Prediction: Nuggets 104, Trail Blazers 101
I think this game could go one of two ways: either the Nuggets bounce back, show some life in the first quarter and play smart basketball to keep themselves in the game and maybe squeeze out a close win, or the Nuggets come out flat and fold early on in a blowout loss. I think last night's loss could be a turning point for this team - and it's time for them to come together. They know they should have beat Portland earlier, and I think now will be the starting point to finally turn things around.