The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers get ready to go at it again. The two Northwest Division rivals have battled for playoff positioning for several years, with Jusuf Nurkic wishing the Nuggets a happy summer back in 2017 kickstarting a rather intense rivalry.

Portland has struggled through injuries while Denver climbed over them and reached the Western Conference Finals last year, but the Trail Blazers want to prove they’re healthy and ready to go this year – and to challenge the Nuggets for supremacy in both the division and the conference. This preseason game is just a preview, but expect both teams to value the experience.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Ball Arena, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy… unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. Altitude TV where available, League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Bribe Stan Kroenke to strap a Go Pro to his German Shepherd. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival blog: Blazers Edge

Player availability: Injury reports were not submitted at time of writing. Check the NBA’s official injury report website for updates.

Three Things to Watch

  • What do the rotations look like? Denver tried for the full hockey line change in their first preseason game, with all the starters coming out together and the full bench lineup deployed together for the first time. To no one’s surprise, a lineup featuring three players from other teams last season and both Monte Morris and PJ Dozier deployed out of position made for a rough first half. They bounced back to close the game strong, however, despite lacking a frontline scoring threat.

So what does coach Michael Malone do the second time around? Is he going to stagger Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray more, or sit one of them and change up his rotations that way? The Nuggets have a lot of young players on the bench, even if you grant Facundo Campazzo veteran status from his crusades in Spain. If Will Barton is ready to go, that alters the rotations already, but the Nuggets need to both get everyone ready for the season in short order and get them used to playing in their expected roles, with their expected rotation teammates. Denver has a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it, so the rotations could get very interesting very quickly.

  • Can MPJ find his rhythm on offense? Michael Porter Jr. just didn’t have his jumper in the last game. I don’t mind him firing off a bunch of shots – shooters shoot, after all, and they shoot their way out of slumps too. But his legs weren’t quite right on his shots (and neither were Murray’s, to be honest, though he took far fewer shots) and he’ll have to get that ironed out quickly. Denver needs MPJ to be a scoring threat, but more importantly to be a scorer. The ball has to go through the hoop, a lot, if Denver plans to get out of the gate quickly.

The time for Porter to get into the offensive flow is now. The Nuggets are raising his profile and his responsibilities, and he’ll be getting a lot of attention from other squads in the regular season game prep as well. Will Barton struggled a bit when he first garnered attention for sixth man of the year as teams began using the film room to find ways to hamper him. MPJ is about to go through the same thing with his role expanding, and everything will be easier if he can just rise up and make buckets. That’s a nice Plan A.

  • When does Bol Bol get released? More of this, please. It’s the preseason, stretch him out and give us fun highlights. They’re playing Portland twice in a row, it’s not like Malone is going to show what he really plans to do against the Trail Blazers anyway. So let Bol run wild!

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