The Denver Nuggets will wrap up their preseason tonight with the second straight contest against the Portland Trail Blazers. The first matchup went in Denver’s favor big time as they opened up a double digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back on their way to a 126-95 win. Now both teams will simply try to survive this final contest without sustaining an injury.

That could mean some interesting lineups, particularly in the second half of this game. Typically, the last game of preseason is used as a dress rehearsal for the regular season but the Nuggets more or less played their regular lineup for the first two and half quarters before going to their reserves for the final 18 or so minutes of their first two preseason contests so in many ways they’ve already done their rehearsals. Portland had a similar approach to the last game as well so don’t be surprised if both teams elect to get their guys some rest and mitigate the risk of an injury by going to the bench early and often in this one.

The Essentials

Who: Portland Trail Blazers (1-2) at Denver Nuggets (1-1)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Ball Arena (RIP The Can…I can’t bring myself to call it The Sack, I just can’t). Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. Altitude TV where available, League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Sneak into Ball Arena in a Rocky costume. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival Blog: Blazer’s Edge

Position Nuggets Pacers Advantage
PG Monte Morris Malcolm Brogdon Pacers
SG Jamal Murray Justin Holiday Nuggets
SF Will Barton Doug McDermott Even
PF Michael Porter Jr. Domantas Sabonis Pacers
C Nikola Jokic Myles turner Nuggets
Bench P.J. Dozier, Zeke Nnaji, Isaiah Hartenstein, Vlatko Cancar T.J. McConnell, Jeremy Lamb, Edmond Sumner, Aaron Holiday Pacers

Player availability: JaMychal Green – out (calf)

Key matchup: Health vs weird stuff that happens in exhibition games

As I’ve stated, just get through this game healthy, it’s all that matters. If it were me, I wouldn’t even bother playing Nikola Jokic at all. The guy is clearly ready to go and doesn’t need any more warmup before the season starts. There is zero benefit to playing Nikola in this game and the only thing you do is risk him getting injured. I probably wouldn’t bother playing Jamal Murray or Paul Millsap either. Heck I might even give Gary Harris the night off. The Nuggets should use this game as an opportunity to get more experience for guys like Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol as well as a chance to knock off some more rust for a guy like Will Barton, but the players that they know are good to go should most definitely sit this one out.

Main thing to watch for: bench rotation

In game one of the preseason Barton was out so P.J. Dozier and Facundo Campazzo rounded out what one might call the “regular rotation.” In game 2 Barton was back and it was Campazzo who was left waiting until late in the game to get minutes. I think the thing to keep your eye on in this game is Dozier and whether or not he stays part of that regular rotation. If he does then it’s safe to assume Facu is going to be squeezed out of a ten man rotation. However, I won’t be surprised if tonight Malone elects to give Dozier time off and sees how Facu does playing next to Barton with the bench lineup. If that’s the case then it’s reasonable to think Malone is still working out who the tenth man is going to be.

Opening thought: lets get ready for a wacky season

It’s crazy to think the entire preseason lasted a single week this year but that’s just the sort of thing we’re going to have to get used to. With the COVID pandemic still raging in America this year could look quite a bit different in the NBA. It’s already a bit off putting to see the arena empty with no court side seats (side note: I wish the NBA would lean into it and keep the hockey boards up during the game so we really get that “playing basketball in a roller rink” feel). There’s sure to be ups and down this season, weird games with weird player availability, postponed games etc. There’s going to be odd times like playing the same team multiple games in a row like it’s a baseball series. All Star weekend will probably look very different. It is what it is Nuggets fans, let’s roll with the punches and be comfortable in the fact that we root for the most resilient team in the NBA so this should be no sweat for them.