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Preview: Nuggets travel to Portland to matchup with the Blazers

The Nuggets are hot right now, but they have been struggling against their division all season. Can they fix it tonight?

Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets have a quick turnaround as they travel to face the Portland Trail Blazers tonight at the Moda Center. The Nuggets have been playing inspired basketball of late. They are winners of five in a row and seven of their last eight. During that eight-game span, they are averaging 118.6 PPG and shooting 49% from the field. Denver has scored 110+ points in seven of those last eight games, and although the defense hasn’t been suffocating, the offense is executing at a very high level.

When you look at this Blazer’s lineup, it is very unfamiliar to previous matchups but this is a competitive group. Led by their coach Chauncey Billups, they have won four of their last five including wins against the Grizzlies, Bucks, and Lakers. Their talented guard Anfernee Simons has been leading the way offensively. Over his last five games, he is averaging 29 PPG and 5.6 assists on 51% shooting from the field and 48.2% from three. He is an electric scorer, and the Nuggets will look to keep him in check while searching for their 6th win in a row.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (35-25, 18-15 away) @ Portland Trail Blazers (25-35, 16-17 home)

When: 7:00 PM MT

Where: Moda Center

How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough), or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Blazer’s Edge

Expected Starting Lineups:

POR: PG Anfernee Simons, SG CJ Elleby, SF Josh Hart, PF Justise Winslow, C Drew Eubanks

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Zeke Nnaji (day to day), Vlatko Cancar (out), Damian Lillard (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Eric Bledsoe (out), Greg Brown III (day to day), Justise Winslow (day to day), Joe Ingles (out), Nassir Little (out), Didi Louzada (out)

Three Keys

Protect the basketball

Denver’s offense has looked like a well-oiled machine lately, but if there is one aspect they can improve upon it is turnovers. Over their last eight games, they are averaging 17 turnovers per game which ranks second to last in the NBA. The Blazers have been putting up about 17 points off turnovers in their last eight, so protecting the basketball needs to be at a premium tonight to avoid the upset.

Control the boards

For the majority of the season, Denver has not been a great rebounding team but of late, they have changed that narrative. They rank 3rd in the league in rebounding over their last eight games which has helped them control the flow of each contest. On the other hand, the Blazers have been a feisty group on the glass. They are averaging 12 offensive rebounds per game over their last eight, ranking them 6th in the NBA over that span. With Nurkic out, they don’t have any overpowering bigs in the paint, but they do a great job of team rebounding, so the Nuggets will have to match that tonight to prevent any extra opportunities from Portland.

Keep the offense rolling

Denver’s offense is in a groove right now. Over their last eight, they rank in the top ten in multiple offensive categories including PPG, FG%, and assists. This Blazers group has been known to give up some points, especially in their own arena. Opponents are averaging 112 PPG at the Moda Center, so the Nuggets should have clean looks all night but it is up to them to capitalize. The Blazers have been struggling to defend the three-ball. At home, they’re giving up a league worse 38% from beyond the arc. The Nuggets have been hovering around the top ten in 3P% all season, so if they can continue their hot shooting, Portland could be in for a long night.