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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to clinch Northwest Division title against Portland Trail Blazers

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Can the Nuggets win the division tonight?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets have the opportunity to win their division for the first time since 2013 tonight. In their way stands the only other team that can win the Northwest Division: the Portland Trail Blazers. A win tonight would give the Nuggets a three game lead on the Blazers with three games to go with the tiebreaker in hand. Should they fail, they’ll have another opportunity this weekend when they play the Blazers again, but in Portland. Best to get it done tonight.

The Blazers are having another strong close to a season despite some unfortunate luck with injuries. Jusuf Nurkic suffered a gruesome season ending leg injury and C.J. McCollum continues to nurse a knee injury. Despite missing their second and third best players the Blazers keep rolling. Behind superstar point guard Damian Lillard Portland has won eight of their last nine. Late season addition Enes Kanter fills the hole in the middle now and Lillard is otherwise surrounded by a bevy of good but not great wings. The Nuggets have the talent advantage but momentum is on the side of the Blazers.

The Basics

Who: Portland Trail Blazers (50-28) at Denver Nuggets (52-26)

When: 8:30PM MDT

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: ESPN, Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Radio 92.5 FM

Rival blog: Blazers Edge

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Blazers Advantage
Position Nuggets Blazers Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Damian Lillard Blazers
SG Gary Harris C.J. McCollum Blazers
SF Torrey Craig Maurice Harkless Even
PF Paul Millsap Al Farouq Aminu Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Enes Kanter Nuggets
Bench Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Will Barton, Mason Plumlee Seth Curry, Zach Collins, Rodney Hood, Evan Turner Blazers

Injured players: Michael Porter Jr. - out (back), C.J. McCollum - out (knee), Jusuf Nurkic - out (leg)

Key matchup: Jamal Murray vs Damian Lillard

Very tough matchup for Murray tonight. Lillard is one of the toughest point guards to defend in all of the NBA and one of the best at dribble penetration. Defending that type of player isn’t exactly Murray’s strong suit. Still, Jamal gets up for these matchups so expect him to bring his “A” game. Because Portland is without Nurkic and McCollum it might be best to just let Lillard get his and hope Murray can match his output while Denver doesn’t let anyone else from Portland go off.

Main thing to watch for: shooting

The Nuggets offense finally found life against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday after struggling for over a week. Chief among their struggles was the ability to knock down a shot, particularly from three. Hopefully Wednesday’s game gave Denver a shot of confidence (no pun intended). Tonight will be a good measure of that and if the Nuggets struggle it’s certainly cause for concern.

Opening thought: don’t demean the accomplishment

The division title in the NBA isn’t as meaningful as it is in the NFL, it doesn’t really have much of an impact on seeding or home court advantage, but don’t let that diminish winning the division title. That is hard to do in the NBA, in fact the Nuggets themselves have only done it three times in over three decades. For this group to come together the way they have to get a shot at the division title tonight is remarkable. If they can pull it off, it should erase any doubt of this core being the next great team in Nuggets history.