One night after the Denver Nuggets beat the Washington Wizards by 20, Denver heads to Portland to face the Trail Blazers.  The Nuggets are on the second half of a back-to-back – although that Wizards game was more like a scrimmage – while this will be Portland’s first game back after the All Star Break. The Nuggets will need to view this as a business trip to secure the win, even though Portland is a veritable M.A.S.H unit of injuries. Back-to-back wins to set the championship tenor for the stretch run is Denver’s goal, and with the right mindset they should get it done.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (37-19) at Portland Trail Blazers (15-39)

When: 8:00PM MST

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 is available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream & Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5. Claim you lost a bet and have to get treated by Portland’s training staff.

Rival Blog: Blazers Edge

Injury Report: Jamal Murray – probable (shins), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – questionable (finger), Hunter Tyson – out (finger), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee); Jabari Walker – questionable (ankle), Scoot Henderson – out (adductor), Malcolm Brogdon – out (Elbow Tendinitis), Moses Brown – out (wrist), Rayan Rupert – out (ankle), Shaedon Sharpe – out (abdominal surgery), Robert Williams III – out (knee surgery)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Jokic being Jokic

Nikola Jokic came out of the break aggressively, scoring on a perfect 10-of-10 from the field but also grabbing every loose ball against Washington and throwing passes all over the court. From full-length bombs for Aaron Gordon buckets to behind-the-back wizardry, Jokic pushed the action early and often in last night’s game, and another aggressive performance from him to get everyone involved while he gets another 20 points for himself should help the Nuggets lock up this victory. Portland cannot stop teams from cutting them up inside, with the worst two-point percentage allowed in the league, and that’s where Nikola feasts. Just throw chum in the water for what he does best and let the team feeding frenzy begin.

The thing to remember: Portland is gonna be battered but rested

Scoot Henderson will miss the game. Half of Portland’s team is currently listed on the injury report with most of them likely to wear street clothes on the sideline tonight rather than a Trail Blazers jersey. But Denver played last night and traveled as well, while Portland has had nothing to do but watch film and wait to attack the champs with a rested (if injured lineup). Portland will not be deep, but Denver has beaten teams with as few as 7 available players in recent years and Portland would love to have that chance. The Nuggets need to force Portland into bad positions rather than giving them their first option, and need to match the early energy from the youth on the Trail Blazers who don’t get as much of a chance at big minutes. It’s not exactly a trap game but the Nuggets better not fall into the pit full of spikes anyway.

The thing to bet: Nuggets over 116.5 (+130)

I don’t think the Nuggets are going to shoot wonderfully. I don’t think they’re going to play hellacious defense. But I do think they’ll be efficient and that Portland will have a ton of trouble stopping them. Denver has a very recent example to go by that just playing hard against bad teams can put a ton of points on the board, and while the Nuggets had to play their starters in the fourth I wouldn’t say any of the action against the Wizards was especially taxing. Denver should have enough in the tank to put Portland in a bad position, and the Blazers average 116.7 allowed to opponents this season. The same gameplan from last night – work inside against a team that can’t block shots and gives up a huge percentage from 2 – works against the Blazers too. Plan on Denver putting up a nice score in a W.