Team Records: Portland (18-16) at Denver (18-17)
Game Info: 6 p.m., TV on CSN, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Denver -3
Refs: Mike Callahan, Bennie Adams, Derek Richardson.
The Skinny: The Blazers start their post All-Star break run with a divisional game in a place they rarely win – Denver. The Nuggets have been hit hard by the injury bug the past few weeks, and it finally started to slow them down on the court. They have lost three of their last four, and their only win of those last four was a home overtime win over Minnesota.
Last Time They Met: Portland took advantage of a Denver team playing its third game in three nights as the Blazers rolled to an easy win. Nicolas Batum set a new Blazer record for threes in a game by making nine as he scored 33 to pace the Blazers.
Projected Nuggets Lineup:
PF: Kenneth Faried (Morehead State, Rookie) – 7.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, .4 APG
SF: Corey Brewer (Florida, 5th season) – 10 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1 APG
C: Timofey Mozgov (Russia, 2nd season) – 5.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, .5 APG
SG: Arron Afflalo (UCLA, 5th season) – 12.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.8 APG
PG: Ty Lawson (North Carolina, 3rd season) – 15.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 6.1 APG
Player to Watch: Kenneth “The Manimal” Faried (pictured at right) – Faried made waves last year when he broke Tim Duncan’s college career rebounding record and nearly broke Duncan’s record for most double-doubles as well. Faried is one of the best rebounders in the game today as a rookie, proving that just because you come from a small school doesn’t mean you can’t play. Faried’s offensive game is limited, but he’s smart enough to not shoot except close to the basket and he doesn’t turn the ball over. He may never be a star, but Faried will probably be a solid bench contributor for years to come.
Did You Know?: Denver has five foreign-born players on their roster, second in the league behind only Toronto, which has six.
Song of the Day: “Rocky Mountain Way” by Joe Walsh – Just a fun little song about Colorado to get us back into the groove for the second half of the season:
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee); Questionable – C Joel Przybilla (rust)
Denver: Questionable – PF Nene Hilario (calf), SF Danilo Gallinari (ankle), SG Rudy Fernandez (back); Probable – PG Ty Lawson (ankle)
Re-Evaluating Denver: Who Takes the Last Shot?
One of the problems for teams that lack a true star is that they often struggle when they decide who should take the last shot. In Denver’s case, that has been true particularly since Gallinari went down with an injury a few weeks ago. It has often been Al Harrington that has had the duties to take the final shot in recent times, with mixed results. Yet, on a team that relies so heavily on team play and passing, perhaps there is no better option for the Nuggets. Whatever the case, if this game comes down to the wire, the question of who takes the last shot may be open for debate.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit Denver’s fast break points. Denver relies heavily on fast break buckets. If Portland can limit Denver’s effectiveness on the break, they should be able to walk out of the Mile High City with a rare win.
Denver wins if: They score at least 110 points. Portland may be trying to be a fast-paced team, 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 home.