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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets Preview

Can the Blazers get another one on the road?

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (6-7) vs Denver Nuggets (8-4)

The Portland Trail Blazers play the Denver Nuggets in Denver on the fourth and final game of their road trip. The Blazers come into this game just after picking up their first road win of the season against the struggling Houston Rockets, bringing them to 1-6 on the road for the season. The Nuggets come into this game on a four-game winning streak, hoping to extend that streak on their home court.

Sunday, November 14 - 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: ROOT Sports, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Greg Brown III (out)
Nuggets injuries: Jamal Murray (out), Michael Porter Jr. (out), Vlatko Cancar (out)
SBN Affiliate: Denver Stiffs

What To Watch For

  • Road struggles. Despite a double digit win against the Rockets on the road, the Blazers have been anything but convincing with their play on the road this year. So what happens when they go against one of the best home court advantages every year? The match-up of a team 6-1 at home against a team 1-6 on the road may be about as easy to predict as it seems, unfortunately. Hopefully the win against the Rockets reminded the Blazers that it is possible for them to win while not in Portland, but my bet is on the road floodgates being not quite open just yet.
  • Foul trouble. Jusuf Nurkic did about as good of a job as anyone could hope to do defensively against reigning MVP Nikola Jokic in last years playoffs. However, the main issue was Nurkic’s inability to stay on the floor for long stretches. Nurkic had 30 total fouls in the Blazers six game loss to the Nuggets, good for an average of five per game. With Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray both listed as out for this game, Nurkic being able to stay on the court and play high level defense on Jokic is more important than ever, and could very well be the difference in this matchup.
  • Nuggets role players. I think this tweet by Andy Quach sums up the Blazers’ season so far very well.

Since this tweet, the Blazers have also allowed 31 points to Frank Kaminsky, which is a career high. The Blazers have allowed plenty of big performances by players that aren’t typically big performance players. For a Nuggets team that is almost all role players, with two of their three best scorers out for this game, that stat bodes very well for them. The Blazers pray they are able to stop the attack from all players not named Nikola Jokic, and not allow any role player to have an uncharacteristically big scoring night.

What Others Are Saying

Gage Bridgford of Denver Stiffs breaks down film of early season breakout, and former Blazer, Will Barton.

Through the first 11 games of the season, Barton is averaging 17.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 43.3 percent from 3-point range. Barton’s 4.4 assists per game are a career-best mark for him, and he’s coming off of a 30-point outing where he was the team’s leading scorer with Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. both on the bench. With the struggles we’ve seen out of MPJ to start the season, Barton has been a saving grace for the team that lacks a consistent weapon outside of Jokic.

How is Barton playing at this high level? That’s what we’re looking at today. Barton has been far-and-away the second-best player on the Nuggets, and he’s doing it while being the fifth-highest paid player on the team. Granted, Jamal Murray is among the four guys above him, but Barton has been crushing it nearly every single night next to the reigning MVP. Let’s see how he’s getting it done.

Carter Frye of NuggLove talked about Nikola Jokic’s improved defense, and the effect it has had on the Nuggets as a whole.

Jokic currently ranks fourth in defensive win shares among all players, so the statistics suggest he is playing like one of the league’s top defensive centers. So, after seeing how the Nuggets played defensively in the paint on Wednesday, it confirms what Jokic has been showing us with his play a few weeks into the year: you should be scared of him on defense.

Jokic has always been pegged as more of an offensive-minded player, and many upset Giannis Antetokounmpo fans argued last season that his defensive woes should have prevented him from winning the MVP.

However, in his trophy defense campaign this year, it seems he is putting all those thoughts to rest by being a playmaker on both ends of the court. Denver is second in defensive rating and overall defensive efficiency this season, behind only the league-best Golden State Warriors.