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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets Preview

The heated rivalry between the Blazers and Nuggets kicks into gear in Florida.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (31-38) vs. Denver Nuggets (45-23)

August 6, 2020 - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Trevor Ariza (opted out), Caleb Swanigan (opted out), Jaylen Adams (game-time decision)
Nuggets injuries: Jamal Murray (questionable), Gary Harris (game-time decision), Will Barton (game-time decision), Vlatko Cancar (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Denver Stiffs

With teams still adjusting to the quarantine games, the Portland Trail Blazers look to gain more ground on the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference. Portland took care of business against the Houston Rockets 110-102 on Tuesday to close the gap to just one game. Jusuf Nurkic dominated against the small-ball Rockets, scoring 18 points and adding 19 rebounds. James Harden had 23 to lead the Rockets.

For Denver, their ascent towards the number two seed continued on Wednesday with a 132-126 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Michael Porter Jr. had 30 points and 15 rebounds in a powerhouse performance. Rudy Gay led the Spurs with 24 points off the bench.

What to watch for

  • Porter Problems. Michael Porter Jr. has been dominant since the restart, averaging 26 points per game and making up for the absence of starting guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray. He is exactly the kind of player the Blazers struggle with: a rangy small forward who can attack the paint or gun from range. Portland’s options for defending him are limited, as Porter can get Zach Collins in foul trouble and abuse Carmelo Anthony’s somewhat lax defense. Gary Trent Jr. might be the best option, but look for Porter to use his size to bully Trent and draw Nurkic or Collins to open opportunities for Nikola Jokic.
  • Stopping Millsap. While Paul Millsap is showing his age, he has consistently been a thorn in the side of the Blazers, both on offense and defense. The 19.3 points he has averaged against Portland over the last three seasons is his second most against any team. With Collins still getting back into the ebb and flow of defense, look for Millsap to try and get him in early foul trouble. Once again, Portland’s defensive options outside of Collins are somewhat limited.
  • Finding a Middle Ground For the Bigs. The return of Collins and Nurkic has severely reduced the playing time of Hassan Whiteside. However, the Blazers have a chance to take advantage of Denver’s depth at center behind Jokic. Mason Plumlee has struggled against Whiteside in the past, and Jerami Grant faces a size mismatch. Portland may be able to use Whiteside to force Jokic into big minutes and potential foul troubles. While Whiteside is simply no match for Jokic, wearing him down can only help Portland’s chances.

What they’re saying

Ryan Blackburn of Denver Stiffs talks about potential lineups for Denver going forward into the playoffs:

Given the injury concerns that Denver’s starters on the wing have faced along with the trajectory of this Nuggets team, I think the right thing to do is to pencil in Michael Porter Jr. as a starter. That decision may not sit right with a lot of people. Will Barton and Gary Harris have earned their positions over several years of dedication, hard work, and doing things the right way.

Mike Singer of the Denver Post talked to guard Monte Morris about his relationship with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul:

“I know at the end of the day, it’s all love,” Morris said of his friendship with Paul. “I’ll probably text him, or he’ll probably text me after the game, say ‘Good game.’ It was good going up against him and seeing where I stack up.”