Team Records: Denver (2-0) at Portland (2-0)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 95.5 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -5
Refs: Eddie F. Rush, Pat Farher, Hawyoode Workman
The Skinny: The Blazers look to close out a 3-0 December with a home win over the pesky Nuggets. The Nuggets come into Portland fresh off of two easy wins to start the year, including an opening rout of defending champions Dallas on Monday. This game will be an early test for both teams as they look to challenge OKC for the division crown. This game also marks the return of Andre Miller and Rudy Fernandez to Portland.
Last season: Portland and Denver split the season series 2-2, with both winning both matchups on their home floor.
Projected Nuggets Lineup:
PF: Nene Hilario (Brazil, 10th season) – 16.5 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 APG
SF: Danilo Gallinari (Italy, 4th season) – 13 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.5 APG
C: Timofey Mozgov (Russia, 2nd season) – 2.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, .5 APG
SG: Arron Afflalo (UCLA, 5th season) – 10.5 PPG, 3 RPG, 1.5 APG
PG: Ty Lawson (North Carolina, 3rd season) – 21 PPG, 3 RPG, 3 APG
Player to Watch: Danilo Gallinari (pictured at right) – Of all the players Denver got in return for Carmelo Anthony last February, the one that clearly excited the most hope as a future star is Gallinari. Although not the most efficient scorer in the world — he shot only 41.2% last season — he is a player you can never leave alone on defense, as he can hit from deep at any time. Most notably, Danilo possess an ability prized among jump shooters, the ability to draw fouls in bunches, averaging over seven free throw attempts a game since the trade.
Did You Know?: The original name of the Denver Nuggets was the Denver Larks, named after Colorado’s state bird.
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee)
They said Denver was done when they traded Carmelo Anthony, they were wrong. They said Denver was done when they lost three players to China this season, and they are probably wrong again. Denver is one of those teams that on paper doesn’t look to be that great as they lack a true star, but this is in fact what makes them great. Rather than just relying on one star to lead them every game, Denver has a roster full of players that can positively impact that game at any time. This was perhaps most evident last year in their win over Charlotte, in which they became the first team to score 120 points without a single player having more than 16 in nearly 20 years. (Oddly enough, the last team to accomplish this feat was Portland in the 1991-92 season vs. Denver.) Denver plays a fast-paced game, scoring over 107 points per game while shooting a very impressive 48% from the field last season. On defense, the Nuggets look to force turnovers and leak out in transition for easy buckets. They may not be the most talented team in the NBA, but they are one of the peskiest and are tough to beat on any given night.
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, 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.