Team Records: Denver (15-8) at Portland (13-10)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW/NBATV, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -5
Refs: Ed Malloy, Pat Fraher, JT Orr
The Skinny: The Blazers return home in search of some more home court magic as they face a Denver team that is playing its third game in as many nights. Denver has been mostly good since the two teams last met the first week of the season but is coming off a close homes loss to the Lakers last night. Portland will hope to see Nicolas Batum’s return tonight from a knee injury.
Last Time They Met: Portland’s guards took over in the fourth, scoring all 28 of Portland’s fourth quarter points as the Blazers secured a hard fought win over the Nuggets in Portland. Wesley Matthews hit five threes in the second half to lead the Blazers.
Projected Nuggets Lineup:
PF: Nene Hilario (Brazil, 10th season) – 13.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.3 APG
SF: Danilo Gallinari (Italy, 4th season) – 17.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.7 APG
C: Kosta Koufos (Ohio State, 4th season) – 3.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, .1 APG
SG: Arron Afflalo (UCLA, 5th season) – 11.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.8 APG
PG: Ty Lawson (North Carolina, 3rd season) – 15.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 6.44 APG
Player to Watch: Ty Lawson (pictured at right) – In a 2009 draft loaded with quality point guards, Lawson was perhaps the best steal of the draft. The sixth point guard selected (in a first round that featured ten point guards), Lawson has proven to be every bit the player many thought he was at North Carolina. A lightning fast guard with the ability to both slash to the hoop and hit the outside shot, Lawson can be devastatingly effective on the offensive end. He is a decent defender but standing only 5’-11” can sometimes be overwhelmed by bigger players. Still, he appears to be a budding star and one that we should not be surprised to see in the all-star game a few times before his career is done.
Did You Know?: Denver is the only team in the NBA to have not suffered a losing streak of at least four games since the 2006-07 season.
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee), Probable – SF Nicolas Batum (Knee).
Denver: Out – C Timofey Mozgov (Ankle), Questionable-PF/SF Corey Brewer (Personal).
Re-Evaluating Denver: Andre and Rudy Return to Portland
When Andre Miller made his return to Portland a month ago he was greeted with a thunderous ovation while Rudy Fernandez was greeted with mostly boos. One can forgive Portland fans for feeling this way, considering how both handled their time in Rip City. They have continued this pattern in Denver. Andre Miller has been his usual solid self, rarely making mistakes and quietly making his team better. He has been averaging nearly a double double in recent weeks. Rudy, on the other hand, has been inconsistent. For example, he shot 5-7 from deep vs. Toronto a week ago but 1-7 last night vs. the Lakers and this pattern has emerged time and again this season. Bottom line, they are who they thought they were and Blazer fans can’t expect much different when they make their second trip to Rip City Saturday.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit Denver’s fast break points. Denver averaged over 17 fast break points per game after the Anthony trade last season. If Portland can hold them to around 10, they should be able to win this one.
Denver wins if: They score at least 110 points. Portland may be trying to be a fast-paced team (at least at home), but Denver already is. It is unlikely that Portland will be able to keep up if Denver has a strong night on offense. If they can hit 110, they will probably be able to simply outscore the Blazers and win at the Rose Garden.