The Denver Nuggets are having a bit of a wild travel week. On Sunday they were in Dallas, then Minneapolis on Tuesday, Denver on Thursday and now finally tonight they are in Portland for a game with the Trail Blazers. Luckily while the travel is difficult tonight’s opponent is not. The Blazers are a team in the midst of a deep rebuild. They landed third overall pick Scoot Henderson in the draft this season and that’s been a bit of a roller coaster for them this year. Otherwise they remain a roster with a weird mixture of very young players who need to develop and a handful of in their prime veterans like Jerami Grant, Matisse Thybulle and DeAndre Ayton. The mismatched roster and underwhelming performance from their point guard of the future has led to a 19-49 record and another trip to the draft lottery.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (49-21) at Portland Trail Blazers (14-49)

When: 8:00 PM MDT

Where: It’s still the Rose Garden. Portland, OR.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5. Dress up like a fat cat with a bunch of money and even though it’s Portland KSE will find a fan to ban so they can charge you double for the tickets.

Rival blog: Blazer’s Edge

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Blazers Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Scoot Henderson Nuggets
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Anfernee Simons Even
SF Michael Porter Jr. Toumani Camara Nuggets
PF Aaron Gordon Kris Murray Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic DeAndre Ayton Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Justin Holiday, DeAndre Jordan Jabari Walker, Duop Reath, Dalano Banton, Rayan Rupert Nuggets

Injury Report*: Jamal Murray – questionable (ankle), Nikola Jokic – questionable (back), Zeke Nnaji – out (adductor), Jalen Pickett – out (personal), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee); Matisse Thybulle – questionable (ankle), DeAndre Ayton – questionable (elbow), Anfernee Simons – questionable (knee), Malcom Brogdon – out (elbow), Shaedon Sharpe – out (abdomen), Jerami Grant – out (hamstring), Robert Williams III – out (knee). *The Blazers injury report was not submitted at the time of writing.

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Wins vs health

Dec 28, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) during the second quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are both listed as questionable. The Nuggets posted a tweet yesterday of photos of the Nuggets on the tarmac, Jokic and Murray were not shown so take that for what you will. Jamal tweaked his ankle right at the end of the New York Knicks game and Jokic has been dealing with back soreness all season. It would absolutely not surprise me at all if both guys ended up staying home for this one game road trip in front of a five game homestand. Zeke Nnaji is already ruled out for the game which means if Jokic and Murray aren’t playing then it’s going to be Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan in the starting lineup. We’ve seen that once before in what ended up being a Reggie/DJ throwback game and one of the most fun Nuggets victories of the season. Not sure if the Nuggets can get a repeat of that performance but even missing their two biggest stars they should have plenty to overcome the Blazers tonight.

The thing to remember: ain’t no way you should lose this

The Nuggets may be out their two stars tonight but Portland is out pretty much every player they had design for helping their young roster. Robert Williams out for the year before the season got started, Grant has missed fourteen games and likely does not play tonight, Brogdon has missed twenty-nine games and is out tonight, Ayton is questionable, Anfernee Simons went down with a knee injury in last night’s game. The injury bug has devastated this team and there was zero margin for that error in their roster. The Blazers are also the team on a back to back. Zero excuses for the Nuggets to not come away with a victory tonight.

The thing to bet: Michael Porter Jr first basket (+700)

Not much to bet on with Portland playing last night and the major injury questions coming up on both sides so let’s have some fun with this one. Now, normally I would never advocate betting on first basket, way too much variance, but since we’re having fun why not give MPJ to make the first basket a go. I’m guessing at least one of Murray and Jokic don’t play if not both which means prime MPJ scoring opportunities. I’d also look into his O/U on points and three pointers when the books finally get those posted but if you’re an absolute degenerate then throw some scratch right now on Mike hitting the first shot and who knows, maybe you’ll hit a big one.