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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets Preview

Jusuf Nurkic looks to continue his dominance against his former club in a Northwest Division tilt.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (13-8) vs. Denver Nuggets (14-7)

November 30, 2018 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Nuggets injuries: Will Barton (out), Michael Porter Jr (out), Jarred Vanderbilt (out), Isaiah Thomas (out), Gary Harris (game-time decision)
How to watch on TV: ESPN
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Denver Stiffs

What a difference a week makes. Portland got the train back on its tracks with a close 115-112 win over the Orlando Magic, in which Damian Lillard went off in a record-breaking way. On the other end, the Denver Nuggets have won four straight and seized first place in the highly competitive Northwest Division. Their streak was punctuated last time out with a 117-85 demolition of the Los Angeles Lakers.

What to watch for

  • Finding Ways To Win. Denver has done a tremendous job this season considering their injury woes. First-round pick Michael Porter Jr. still has not suited up. Offseason acquisition Isaiah Thomas has yet to play a single minute. Former Trail Blazer spark plug Will Barton hurt his hip two games into the year, and will be out until at least January. Yet the team has powered through on the backs of Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic. Portland cannot afford to underestimate this short-handed squad.
  • Defense, Defense, Defense. Portland’s perimeter defense has left a lot to be desired, especially over the last ten games. Denver has four strong three-point shooters in Jokic, Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles, and Malik Beasley. On the other side, Denver is third in the NBA in points allowed per game. The Blazers must make the most of their offensive opportunities.
  • Will The Real Mo Harkless Please Stand Up. Since his return from injury, Harkless has shot 4-of-14 from the field, 0-for-8 from three, and committed eight fouls. The Blazers could really use the return of the Harkless that shot 41.5% from three last season.

What they’re saying

Mike Olson of Denver Stiffs tells how the Nuggets are exceeding expectations, and yet could be even better:

What makes the prospects slightly more tantalizing for Denver Nuggets fandom is knowing how much better the team can be than it already is.

Mike Singer of the Denver Post speaks on how defense has become the Nuggets’ identity:

“It’s our identity,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who was practically beaming after their fourth-ranked defense ground the Lakers’ high-wire offense to dust. “Let’s be honest, our first three years to be in the bottom five of defense every year, for me, it’s embarrassing. When you’re known, ‘Hey, he’s a defensive coach,’ and three years running you’re bottom five. I have pride, we all have pride.”

Nuggets Insider Christopher Dempsey talks about the Nuggets’ prospects after their hot start:

The last time the Nuggets finished the season in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating --- they went to the Western Conference Finals in 2009. We won’t get too far ahead of ourselves, just barely getting to a quarter of the way through the current season. But it has been a very positive start for the Nuggets, especially, Malone said, because the offense has yet to truly get going.