Team Records: Denver (14-12) at Portland (11-12)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Denver -5.5
Refs: Scott Foster, Brian Forte, Eli Roe.
The Skinny: The Blazers look to make it four in a row with a home win over the pesky Nuggets. The Nuggets come into Portland fresh off of three straight wins and are coming to the end of a road heavy early schedule (this is already Denver’s 19th road game). Given that unfavorable early schedule, these Nuggets are better than their record and are a tough out seemingly every night.
Last season: Portland won the season series 2-1, its first series win over Denver since the 1998-99 season. Portland is 58-19 all-time at home vs. Denver but only 23-52 on the road against the Nuggets.
Projected Nuggets Lineup:
PF: Kenneth Faried (Morehead State, 2nd season) – 12.3 PPG, 10 RPG, .7 APG
SF: Danilo Gallinari (Italy, 5th season) – 16.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.6 APG
C: Kosta Koufos (Ohio State, 5th season) – 6.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, .5 APG
SG: Andre Iguodala (Arizona, 9th season) – 13.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.2 APG
PG: Ty Lawson (North Carolina, 4th season) – 14.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 7 APG
Player to Watch: Danilo Gallinari (pictured at right) – Of all the players Denver got in return for Carmelo Anthony, 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 41.4% 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 nearly five free throw attempts a game the past few seasons.
Did You Know?: The original name of the Denver Nuggets was the Denver Larks, named after Colorado’s state bird.
Song of the Day: “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” by REM-In honor of the famed, and almost certainly incorrect, prediction the Mayans made that the world will end on Friday. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Ankle), Questionable- SG Wesley Matthews (Hip), SF Sasha Pavlovic (Gluteal Strain), PG Nolan Smith (Illness).
Denver: Out- SF Wilson Chandler (Hip), PG Julyan Stone (Hip).
Denver is one of those teams that on paper don’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. One night it might be Iguodala that does it for them, another night Faried, the next Andre Miller and on and on. Point is, they don’t lack for options. Denver plays a fast-paced and high-efficiency game on offense, ranking fourth in pace and seventh in offensive efficiency. On defense, they are below average but their defense is less bad than their offense is good. Bottom line, 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 loves to run out on the break and Portland has had a hard time stopping that at times this year. If they can limit Denver to a half-court offense, they will stand a strong chance of winning.
Denver wins if: They score at least 100 points. Denver is the sort of team that can simply outscore you and odds are they will with Portland forced to play without Aldridge Thursday. If the Nuggets hit the century mark, that will almost certainly be enough to secure Denver’s fourth straight win.