The Denver Nuggets (2-1) are back in action after a night off as they begin a stretch where they play four games between tonight and Sunday. They’re in action against one of the four remaining undefeated teams as they head west to take on the Portland Trail Blazers (3-0). Games between these two teams have always been highly contested over the last few seasons, so tonight could be another instant classic.
The Nuggets stumbled on opening night, but they’ve put up some impressive offensive showings over the last two games with 128 and 122 points respectively. Their defense, especially on the second unit, has left something to be desired. They’ve given up 117 or more points in each of their first three games, including 123 in each of their first two games.
For Portland, entering the season, some had them as a potentially tanking franchise, but don’t tell them that. Lillard has been humming on offense, and they’ve been doing enough to get by on defense. While knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers doesn’t seem all that impressive, they did it on the road two days after knocking off the Phoenix Suns on the road in overtime.
Who: Denver Nuggets (2-1, 1-1 away) @ Portland Trail Blazers (3-0, 1-0 home)
When: 8:00 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: Blazers Edge
Expected Starting Lineups:
POR: PG Damian Lillard, SG Anfernee Simons, SF Josh Hart, PF Jerami Grant, C Jusuf Nurkic
DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Collin Gillespie (leg), Trendon Watford (hip), Gary Payton (abdomen), Olivier Sarr (wrist)
Three Things to Watch
Slowing Damian Lillard
After scoring 20 points while shooting 5-of-18 from the floor, point guard Damian Lillard has been absolutely scorching over the last two games. He’s scored 41 points in both games, while shooting 11-of-25 from 3-point range in the process. Denver has struggled with guard defense out of the gate, as they’ve given up more than 30 points to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Stephen Curry in back-to-back games, while also allowing Collin Sexton to score 20 points off the bench for the Utah Jazz. Lillard can single-handedly take games over, and that can’t be the case tonight.
Battle of the Bigs
Nikola Jokic vs Jusuf Nurkic has been the battle to watch in nearly every matchup of these two teams since Nurkic was traded away during the 2016-17 season. Jokic’s ability to draw fouls on Nurkic has caused a defensive collapse to occur when he’s off of the floor. If Jokic can get to Nurkic early, Denver could be in for a big game inside the paint.
Denver’s Bench Minutes
Through three games, Denver’s second unit has shown flashes of brilliance, but they’ve been quite inconsistent. The argument can be made that they were the driving force for Denver’s win over the Golden State Warriors, but they were also the reason Denver only won by five over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Blazers are only playing four reserves right now, and none of them are averaging more than 7.3 points per game. This could be a starter-heavy game, so the bench needs to make their mark when given the chance.