The Denver Nuggets (47-24) wrapped up a top-four seed just under a week ago, and they’re one of a few teams that have yet to solidify their seeding on the final day of the regular season. One of the other teams is the Portland Trail Blazers (41-30) who are currently in sixth place due to a tie-breaker win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Depending on the results of this game, a lot of moving could occur.
Denver is 7-3 in their last 10 games, and they are currently the third seed in the Western Conference by way of a head-to-head tie-breaker over the LA Clippers. If the Nuggets win this game, they would secure the third seed regardless of what the Clippers do in their final game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, with the way the matchups would work out, it may be in their best interest to lose this game.
For Portland, if they win, they guarantee themselves the sixth seed. If they lose, they need the Lakers to lose to the New Orleans Pelicans to avoid falling into the play-in tournament. They’ll be playing their entire lineup while we could see Denver resting a key player or two heading into the playoffs.
Who: Denver Nuggets (46-24, 22-13 away) vs Portland Trail Blazers (41-30, 19-16 home)
When: 7:00 p.m. MST
Where: Moda Center
How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Portland. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Blazer’s Edge
Expected Starting Lineups:
POR: PG Damian Lillard, SG C.J. McCollum, SF Norman Powell, PF Robert Covington, C Jusuf Nurkic
DEN: PG Facundo Campazzo, SG Austin Rivers, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Will Barton, PJ Dozier, Monte Morris, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon
Three Things to Watch
Who Plays for Denver?
Nikola Jokic has yet to miss a game this season. The MVP is one of just a few players to be able to stake that claim. Is he going to play the final game, or is Michael Malone going to force him to rest? If Jokic plays, who will actually suit up alongside him? Denver’s matchup if they lose is the Dallas Mavericks. If they win, there’s a chance they have a first-round series against the Lakers. It makes a lot of sense for players like Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and anyone with a nagging injury to take the night off.
Guarding the Guards
Regardless of who suits up for Denver, guarding the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is going to be a task and a half. The two stars average over 50 points per game while putting up nearly 20 3-point attempts per game. If the guards are hitting their shots, Portland could put up a bundle of points in a hurry.
Use This To Get Better
In games that turn into blowout wins or losses, teams don’t always use their opportunities to get better. Reserve players play track-meet basketball and chuck up bad shots until the clock runs out. If this game does become a blowout, it should be used to develop players that are in a cold spell, or it can be used to experiment with sets you’ve been trying to implement. The bottom line is the game can’t just be wasted if it’s a blowout.