The Denver Nuggets (34-16) struggled with injuries and inconsistency throughout the month of January. They dropped multiple games to teams below .500 on the year, and they were never able to win more than three games in a row. They’re right in the middle of the battle for the top seeds in the Western Conference, and they’ll need a strong February to build their case.

The Portland Trail Blazers (23-27) are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and they’ve been watching Damian Lillard put on a master class of scoring. He averaged over 45 points per game over a six-game stretch. After being in the conference basement to start the season, they’ve bounced back, and they now find themselves just two games back from the eighth seed.

Denver is still banged up with injuries, and Lillard has been playing out of his mind of late. We’re getting to the days where wins are starting to increase in their importance, and both teams will be hoping for a win tonight.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (34-16, 19-6 home) @ Portland Trail Blazers (23-27, 10-16 away)

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Pepsi Center

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless its 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 C.J. McCollum, SF Trevor Ariza, PF Carmelo Anthony, C Hassan Whiteside

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Gary Harris, SF Will Barton, PF Jerami Grant, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Zach Collins (Shoulder) Out, Rodney Hood (Achilles) Out, Jusuf Nurkic (Leg) Out, Skal Labissiere (Knee) Out, Mason Plumlee (Foot) Out, Paul Millsap (Knee) Out, Jamal Murray (Ankle) Game-time-decision, Michael Porter Jr. (Ankle) Out

Three Things to Watch

Who’s Covering Lillard?

This question remains true even when Lillard is playing just average levels of basketball, but he’s playing at an absolutely insane level right now. He’s scored 30 or more points in nine of his last 10 games, and he’s gone over 50 points three different times. It’s all come on effective shooting as well with only three games under 50 percent. This could be a game where Torrey Craig sees some extended run as a defensive specialist, but it’s a lot of prayers.

Denver’s Conditioning

From Thursday through Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons, Denver played three games in under 72 hours. Three games in four days is one thing, but Denver essentially played three games back-to-back-to back. On Sunday, after blowing a huge lead, they went into overtime where they eventually lost. Their roster is depleted by injuries, and guys have been playing a lot of minutes. It will be interesting to see how they hold up late in the game.

Watch the Rebounding Battle

Denver has typically done well in the rebounding category because they have two very good players on the board in Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee, and rookie Michael Porter Jr. has done exceptionally well in that area. Two of those three guys are out, and Portland has Whiteside who gobbles up rebounds all game long. Offensive rebounds can break the spirit of a defense, and Denver can’t allow too many of those.