Game 49 Preview: Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets

Game Time:  6:00 p.m.  TV:  KGW

It seems almost unfair to have to write a preview after that glorious win-of-the-season last night.  Sadly this is how the Blazers are likely to feel too.  Nothing sobers you up after an emotional, joyous win like a miserable loss slapping you right in the face.  That is the peril the Blazers will try to dance around tonight.

This will be the third meeting between these two teams this season.  Portland narrowly won at home in November and then got spanked in Denver in late December.  Pepsi Center has never been friendly to the Blazers and it's seemingly gotten worse in the last few years.  Portland has trouble mustering even a passable effort when they get on that floor.  Denver is returning from a long road trip and will no doubt be relieved to get home.  That's a bad combination.

More than a passable effort will be required tonight as the Nuggets, though hardly playing ideally at 28-20, boast the highest scoring average in the league at 107.5 ppg.  By comparison, the game would need to be around 55 minutes long for the Blazers to overcome what Denver scores in 48.  The Nuggets achieve this by strong paint scoring, a good shooting percentage, a stellar average from beyond the arc (plus the willingness to take those threes), and a propensity to draw and hit foul shots.  They only offense they don't build on is the fast break.  They don't need it, really.

On the other end the Nuggets are on the low side of average.  They allow points in the paint and foul a fair bit.  Otherwise they hang around the middle of the league in most categories save points allowed, of which they give up 104.6.  Unsurprisingly when Denver gets in trouble it's because their defense has gotten away from them.  They've only held an opponent under 105 twice in their last eight games.

Portland's difficulty will be twofold.  Thought Carmelo Anthony is always an issue, the Denver bigs have consistently given the Blazers fits.  This will be a bigger issue with most of Portland's big men limping or in suits.  Nene can be a terror with his size and quickness.  Kenyon Martin has been out but has returned.  Chris "Birdman" Andersen, a particular menace to Portland, sat out the last game.  The Blazers would like to see as few healthy Denver bigs as possible.  Second, the Blazers don't top 105 very often no matter who the opponent is.  It's happened in regulation 9 times in the 48 games they've played this year.  Every with every Blazer scorer going off, Denver may just have too much firepower.  Portland's best bet may well be to make the game ugly and slow.  Denver excels in the halfcourt, but limiting their shots may make the margin small enough to overcome with a decent run.

The biggest enemy tonight will be plain old motivation.  If Denver comes out and smacks Portland in the chops, will the Blazers respond?  Will they be mentally and emotionally invested in this game?  If not, forget it.  It'll be a 20+ point blowout.

See the Denver side of things at Denver Stiffs.

Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com) 

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