The Portland Trail Blazers (17-15) travel to Ball Arena to take on the Denver Nuggets (19-11). The Nuggets are fresh off of a win that placed them as the number one seed in the Western Conference, however, losing tonight would drop them down to the 3rd seed. The Trail Blazers are the 8th seed currently, they have lost 3 of their last 4 games and are currently tied in the season series with Denver 1-1. The Nuggets have won 6 of their last 7 games, all without Michael Porter Jr. who is supposedly returning for tonights game.

Michael Porter Jr. told reporters at practice on Thursday that he plans on playing against Portland. MPJ said that he was sitting out with a heel injury, not a back issue, and he is not worried about it since it is unrelated to his back. Coach Malone said that MPJ will likely be on a minutes restriction when he does return, it is unclear what that may look like though.

The Essentials:

Who: The Denver Nuggets (19-11, 10-3 home) vs The Portland Trail Blazers (17-15, 10-9 away)

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena, Denver Colorado

How to watch/listen: AltitudeTV and NBALeaguePass where available, 92.5 Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Blazer’s Edge

Expected Starting Lineups:

POR: PG Damian Lillard, SG Anfernee Simons, SF Josh Hart, PF Jerami Grant, C Jusuf Nurkic

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokić

Injuries: Jeff Green (back) probable, Michael Porter Jr. (heel) questionable, Jamal Murray (knee) questionable, Collin Gillespie (leg) out

Three Things to Watch for:

MPJ’s movement:

MPJ has come back from injuries in the past and has been just as good of a shooter as before, but sometimes his quick agility and fast movement can come back slower. MPJ could even have a potential size mismatch if Portland matches Josh Hart up against him and not Jerami Grant. If MPJ looks to be moving on defense and other aspects as quickly as he did previously, Denver is poised to maintain the 1 seed for a long time.

Damian Lillard:

Dame has scored 25+ points in all but one of the teams last 9 matchups, including a 55-point explosion in a double overtime playoff loss to Denver. He always plays some of his best basketball versus the division rival Nuggets. Slowing him down is the only way to beat the Blazers, it is much easier said than done though. The Nuggets will also take the lead in the season series with a win tonight.

Can Bones Hyland shake his shooting woes:

Bones has shot 8 for 30 (26%) from three over the last 2 weeks, while he has still been effective in scoring and playmaking on the court, Denver needs his shooting for the bench. Bones has acknowledged his shooting slump and says he will do what most would, shoot through it. Hopefully, his shots start to fall soon and he can be back to being that spark of energy off of Denver’s bench.