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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets Preview

Portland will try to avenge Friday night’s loss to the Nuggets, this time at Moda Center.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (50-29) vs. Denver Nuggets (53-26)

Sunday, April 6th - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (out), Seth Curry (probable), CJ McCollum (probable),
Nuggets injuries: Michael Porter Jr. (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Denver Stiffs

The Portland Trail Blazers have a chance to get a little payback, facing the same Denver Nuggets team that beat them last time out by a a score of 119-110 in Denver. The Blazers deserve credit for an exciting game that came down to the fourth quarter in spite of being short-handed. Still, it counted as a loss in the standings, and with the Blazers needing wins to secure home-court advantage, another good performance in a losing effort won’t cut it.

The Denver Nuggets secured the Northwest Division title when they defeated the Blazers. For a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year that’s a tremendous achievement. The Nuggets are very good and very deep. Now that they’ve achieved the division title and home-court advantage, they might be thinking as much about being in peak condition for the playoffs as they are about the Blazers. There is a real chance that we’ll see first hand just how deep the Nuggets are in this game.

What to watch for

  • Bounce-back game for Damian Lillard. Lillard had an uncharacteristic off game on Friday against the Nuggets, scoring 14 points on 3-of-14 shooting for 21.4%. He also went zero for six from deep. Blazers fans know that Lillard rarely disappoints twice in a row, so expect him to score early and often in the rematch against the Nuggets.
  • Who will play for the Nuggets? According to Altitude Sports’ Chris Dempsey, the Nuggets are planning on resting Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic, and Jamal Murray. Seeing as the trio accounted for 70 points and 24 rebounds against the Blazers Friday, it’s fair to say that if Denver sits them it will have a significant impact on the game.
  • Torrey Craig. Craig might not be the first player you think of on the Nuggets, but he was fantastic against the Blazers on Friday. 18 points on 66.7% shooting is great, but his defending was better. Craig was especially effective fighting through screens and causing Damian Lillard problems, one of the primary reasons for Lillard’s subpar game. Assuming some of the Nuggets stars don’t play, Craig will have an even bigger opportunity to make a name for himself.

What they’re saying

Denver is closing out the season with a host of playoff-bound teams. Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post reports that the Nuggets see this as a good thing:

“The games that we’ve been in are being played like playoff-like games,” Millsap said Friday. “The atmosphere’s a little different. The intensity level of what teams are trying to do to us. The way Houston came out on us, the way Golden State came out on us, this is what it feels like to be in the playoffs. This is how teams are going to come at you in the playoffs.”

Like many Blazers fans, Nuggets fans are thinking about who their first-round playoff opponents will be. Our friends Adam Mares, Gordon Gross, Ryan Blackburn, and Evan Fiala at Denver Stiffs had a roundtable on this and other playoff-related topics:

Fiala: Imagine this: It’s game one of the first round. The first playoff game at Pepsi Center in six years. Everyone is pumped, it’s a packed house. Rocky is going nuts. They go to announce the opposing team. Which opposing player will get the Denver crowd fired up the most? Not Danilo Gallinari or LaMarcus Aldrige. It’s Russell Westbrook. The lid of the arena would get blown off with how many “boos” he would get. It would be a phenomenal playoff atmosphere. Yes, the Clippers might be the easier match up on paper, but I want to play the Thunder in the first round because it would be the most satisfying to win. And if Denver ends up losing, it would still probably be the most entertaining series.

The future looks bright for the Nuggets, but not everything is smooth sailing reports Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post:

On the night the Nuggets beat Portland 119-110 to clinch their first Northwest Division championship since 2010, Connelly refused to refute reports he is the leading candidate to become the next chief of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards.

“I’m the president of the Denver Nuggets,” Connelly said Friday. “Everything else is pure speculation.”