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Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Preview

With playoff seeding on the line, the Blazers travel to the Mile High City to face the Denver Nuggets.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (50-28) at Denver Nuggets (52-26)

Friday, April 5th, 2019 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: CJ McCollum (doubtful), Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Nuggets injuries: Michael Porter Jr. (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, ESPN
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, WatchESPN
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Denver Stiffs

The Portland Trail Blazers face their first real test since Jusuf Nurkic went down for the rest of the season as they face the Denver Nuggets. Denver is currently second in the Western Conference, a game and a half behind the Golden State Warriors and two games ahead of Portland. Enes Kanter and Zach Collins were strong in the Blazers’ last game, a 116-89 obliteration of the Memphis Grizzlies.

For Denver, getting the top overall seed in the West is their goal as the regular season comes to a close. Last time out they easily took care of business against the San Antonio Spurs 113-85. Monte Morris and Malik Beasley provided a combined 38 points off the bench in the effort.

What to watch for

  • Keep Kanter hot. Enes Kanter has stepped up for the Trail Blazers in a big way, averaging 17.5 points and 11 rebounds per game over the last five games. The Blazers often relied on Nurkic to handle Nikola Jokic and deal damage to his former squad. Kanter will have to shoulder that load and provide offensively while trying to keep the Nuggets’ star center in check.
  • Force full containment of the Nuggets offense. Portland has played Denver close in both of their defeats this season, but the team often looked to close one scoring gap only to see another one open. Jokic scored 40 in their first meeting, and the Blazers held him to 15 in their second battle. However, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap combined for 49 in that game. Denver’s multi-faceted offense is talented, but Portland can hold them in check with sound defensive decisions.
  • Re-ignite the guards. While the big men for Portland are playing at a high level, the guards have fallen back. Seth Curry has struggled from the field in two of the Blazers’ last three games, and Rodney Hood is on the bad end of his traditionally streaky nature. Damian Lillard needs help to try and take some mileage off his legs as the playoffs approach.

What they’re saying

Ryan Blackburn of Denver Stiffs looks at Denver’s poor shooting from three over the second half of the season:

The Nuggets needed a 38-point offensive explosion in a full quarter’s worth of garbage time to crack 100 points last night against the Golden State Warriors. Prior to that, the Nuggets had only cracked 100 points in four of the previous five games. Heading into the season, scoring was the last aspect of the game in which anyone expected the Nuggets to struggle.

Sean Keeler of the Denver Post reveals a powerful stat about the Nuggets — no one does better on short rest:

Mad props to a bevy of young, fresh legs. Madder props still to a rotation that’s stretched 10-11 deep in quality players, quality contributors, all season long. Because nobody in the NBA — not Golden State, not Houston, not Milwaukee, not Toronto — has locked in the way the Nuggets have when staring at short-turnaround scenarios. With a week left in the regular season, Denver sits at an NBA best 11-1 (.917) in the second game of back-to-back contests, 11-1 with zero days of rest.