The Denver Nuggets (30-13) are back in action tonight after taking down the Orlando Magic (16-28) on Nikola Jokic’s game winner at the buzzer on Sunday night. Tonight, they take on a rival opponent in the Portland Trail Blazers (21-22) for the fourth and final time this season. They currently hold the lead in the season series by a margin of 2-1, so a win tonight would clinch the season series for the sixth year in a row for the conference-leading Nuggets.
For Denver, they remain one of the hottest teams in the NBA with an 8-2 mark in their last 10 games and a six-game winning streak entering tonight. This will be Denver’s second game in this five-game homestand before a three-game road trip against teams that are each in the top four in their respective conferences. After a heavy slate of road games to start the year, Denver is making the most of this reduced travel they’ve had recently.
For Portland, they’ve struggled with consistency at times this year. They’re 4-6 in their last 10 games, but they’re looking for their first three-game winning streak since the middle of December as they enter tonight with back-to-back victories over the Dallas Mavericks (24-21) over the weekend. Portland currently finds themselves in 10th place in the Western conference, but they’re only two games back from fifth place with a crowded cluster of teams in the middle of the pack.
Who: Denver Nuggets (30-13, 19-3 home) vs Portland Trail Blazers (21-22, 10-14 away)
When: 7:00 p.m. MST
Where: Ball Arena
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 Denver. 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), Jeff Green (hand/finger), Peyton Watson (groin), Jamal Murray (ankle), Vlatko Cancar (leg), Bones Hyland (ankle), Gary Payton II (hip), Justise Winslow (ankle)
Three Things to Watch
Keep a Lid on Dame
Star guard Damian Lillard is a human microwave at times on the basketball court. He can start a game struggling from the field or deferring to teammates, but he only needs to see one ball go in to really get rolling. In three games, Lillard is averaging 35 points while shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from 3-point range against Denver this year. Keeping Dame from taking the game over is priority number one.
Nikola Jokic vs Jusuf Nurkic
Every time these teams matchup, one of the main matchups that I’m watching every single time is Nikola Jokic vs Jusuf Nurkic. These two former teammates always bring their best against each other, and the guy that wins the battle between the two generally goes a long way towards deciding if his team wins the game or not. In their lone win this season against the Nuggets, Nurkic held Jokic to nine points while getting him into foul trouble. In their two losses, Jokic returned the favor with Nurkic racking up 11 fouls while Jokic averaged 31 points per game. There is guard firepower in this game, but the bigs deserve some attention as well.
Bench Minute Battle
Denver’s second unit has been one of the main thorns in their paw this season. They’ll have nights when the group can score at will while other nights can be like pulling teeth to get any offensive production out of them. This is not a particularly deep Portland team, and the Nuggets need to take advantage. With Bones Hyland and Vlatko Cancar limited and potentially out with injuries, that could make those minutes even more uncertain.