If you're any kind of Blazer fan I'm not sure you need to know much more about the Nuggets than you've seen already this season. In fact if you're a true Blazer fan you've probably been following their every move and dissecting their every play all season long. They are 39-22. We are 38-22. We're both in the same division. What more incentive do you need?
As far as details go, they've got Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony, both of whom have sliced and diced Portland in the past. Billups in particular is a headache as he's experienced, a great passer, smart, and can pour in points. He looks at the Portland point guard brigade and starts drooling. They also have Kenyon Martin who has made it his business to push, pull, prod, and poke the Blazers every chance he gets. His eyes seem to light up with that "fresh meat" look when he sees us as well. J.R. Smith hasn't uncorked on Portland like the others. In fact he seems to have trouble against the Blazers. Oh, but Nene Hilario is starting to pick up on the vibe of his older teammates and is considering the Blazers lunch-money fodder. He averaged 18 and 12 in the home-and-home against us in December.
In short, this really isn't a pleasant team for the Blazers to play. It really is like walking in on that first day of prison to the chants of the hardened inmates. However this is a team Portland has to play well against if they want to rule this division someday and this is THE team that Portland plays tonight for the lead in said division. It's mettle-testing of the highest order. It will be interesting to see how the Blazers respond.
The Nuggets are both prolific and efficient scorers. They take care of the ball, they share the ball, and they don't make it easy for you to hold onto the ball. That's doing pretty much everything right. They're strong and athletic in the middle and they block shots like a mug-mug. They also average more free throw attempts than anyone else in the league even after losing foul-shot magnet Allen Iverson.
The one area where Portland has an advantage in spades is rebounding, though that will be lessened with Greg Oden out. Nevertheless controlling the glass remains the best way to weather the storm. If you let Denver get second chances and/or you don't score extra points on second chances of your own that offense is going to overwhelm you.
It's hard to see a scenario wherein Portland will be favored to win this game. When that happens, especially in a game of this magnitude, the only real solution is to come out fighting harder than the opponent. And in Denver's case with their physical play that may mean literally fighting harder than they do. The only way the Blazers will take this game is emotion channeled through execution. Portland needs to run, fight, claw, scratch, and evidence enough passion to set the Nuggets back on their heels. Then they need to keep them off balance with surgical scoring and smart defense. If the Nuggets aren't giving interviews at the end of this game evidencing surprise at how hard and how well the Blazers played Portland will not win this game. And that's pretty much the whole story.
Don't forget that the best place to watch the game tonight will be at The Agency with your friends from Blazersedge including Ben and myself. The party starts at 6:00 p.m. and the game will be shown at 7:30. Come enjoy the fun! All ages are welcome and yes, I'm going to try and rustle up name tags.
Check out PickAxeandRoll for the Denver side of things.
Enter the Jersey Contest here.