Team Records: Denver (25-32) at Portland (40-18)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW/NBATV, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -11.5
Refs: Bill Kennedy, Bennie Adams, Scott Twardoski
The Skinny: The Blazers look to build off of their thrashing of the Nets Wednesday night as they look likely to get either LMA or Meyers back from injury. Portland will be looking for only their third 4-0 sweep of the Nuggets in series history Saturday night. A win will also lock up the tiebreaker over OKC since Portland would have a superior record against division opponents. Denver has now lost eight of their last nine and is coming off a thrashing by the same Nets team Portland routed Wednesday.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers built a big lead after three quarters and then hung on for the win as Denver made a big push in the fourth. Robin Lopez recorded a career-high seven blocks and Lillard scored 31 points to lead Portland in the win.
Projected Nuggets Lineup:
PF: Kenneth Faried (Morehead State, 3rd Season) – 10.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Wilson Chandler (DePaul, 7th season) – 13.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.8 APG
C: Timofey Mozgov (Russia, 4th season) – 8.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, .7 APG
SG: Randy Foye (Villanova, 8th season) – 12.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.1 APG
PG: Aaron Brooks (Oregon, 6th season) – 7.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.1 APG
Player to Watch: Randy Foye (pictured at right) – Randy Foye was a Blazer for about, oh 10-15 minutes on draft night 2006 before he was shipped off to Minnesota for Brandon Roy. Although nowhere near the productivity of Roy, Foye is a good player in his own right. Foye’s main weapon on offense is the three point shot, and he is a good, although not great, shooter. More than half his attempts come from distance and he hits them at a 37.2% clip, making 121 so far this season, the 16th most in the NBA. On a good team Foye would probably be a sixth man type player, the sort of instant offense type guy because he’s not a great rebounder, passer or defender. Yet on a team such as the Nuggets, and especially without Ty Lawosn, Foye has to come up big if the Nuggets are to beat anyone.
Did You Know?: PG Ty Lawson has missed 12 games for Denver this season. The Nuggets are a woeful 3-9 when Lawson doesn’t play.
Song of the Day: “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” by ACDC. Normally being a true contender is a long journey, Portland is hoping it is not a long way to the top for them. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PF/C Joel Freeland (Knee), PF Thomas Robinson (Patella Tendon), Questionable-C Meyers Leonard (Ankle), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Groin)
Denver: Out-SF Danilo Gallinari (ACL), C JaVale McGee (Tibia),, PG Nate Robinson (ACL), Doubtful-PG Ty Lawson (Ribs), Questionable-SF Wilson Chandler (Knee), Probable- PF Darrell Arthur (Hip)
Re-Evaluating Denver: Next Step for Denver?
The Nuggets are not going to make the playoffs this year and frankly, even with a fully healthy roster this was a team that was probably, at best, barely good enough for the 8th seed. As they look to rebuild the Nuggets will have to do so without signing any big free agents as they are over the cap for next season by several million dollars. Yet, all is not lost for Denver. They own the rights to New York’s pick and will convey the less favorable of that and their own pick to Orlando. With a little bit of luck from either Denver or New York, the Nuggets could be sitting pretty with a high pick in this year’s draft and rebuilding could be faster than many fear. It might look bleak now but Denver is a lot closer to bouncing back than many others in similar situations.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They are focused. Without Lawson this Denver team is not very good. If Portland is focused and ready to go, they should win this easily.
Denver wins if: They limit Portland’s 3 point makes. Denver’s best hope is to keep Portland from burning them outside as the Blazers did when they made 12 3s in Tuesday’s win. Denver has an advantage inside (although less if Aldridge is back) and they will have to force Portland to attack inside if they want to have any chance of winning.