Portland Trail Blazers (41-30) vs Denver Nuggets (47-24)
The Portland Trail Blazers take on the Denver Nuggets in the last game of the regular season at Moda Center tonight. The Blazers have caught fire at the right time, going 9-2 in their last 11 games, hoping to take this one to guarantee a spot in the playoffs. The Nuggets are winners of nine of their last 12 and currently sit at third in the Western Conference going into tonight’s slate of games.
Sunday, May 16 - 6:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, TNT, NBA League Pass or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out)
Nuggets injuries: Jamal Murray (out), Will Barton (out), PJ Dozier (out)
SBN Affiliate: Denver Stiffs
What To Watch For
- Seeding. Terry Stotts has come out and said that the Blazers will not tank this game in order to gain a favorable match up, but it is impossible not to try and predict the outcome. Stay with me here, because this is about to get complicated. If the Blazers win and both the Mavericks and Lakers lose, the Blazers take the five spot. If all three win, lose, the Blazers and Lakers both win and the Mavericks lose, or the Blazers and Lakers both lose, Portland gets the 6th seed. If the Blazers lose and the Lakers win, the Blazers finish 7th, and in the play in game. If the Nuggets win, they finish 3rd, but if they lose and the Clippers win, the Nuggets drop to 4th. That whole spiel was basically just a long way to say, this day of games is going to be a lot of fun, regardless of the outcome, although I’m personally hoping to stay out of the play in.
- Damian Lillard. It’s tough not to look at this game and compare it to the Nets game at the end of the bubble last year, or even this last stretch of games for the Blazers being similar to the bubble as a whole. In that final game of the regular season last year, Damian Lillard finished with 42 points of 13/22 from the field to win one of the highest stakes games in recent Trail Blazers history. Damian Lillard is one of the only players in the league capable of being the best player on the court against any team, and he will hope to outshine Nikola Jokic in this fight for playoff positioning.
- X-factor contributors. Both the Blazers and Nuggets have a few players that could be classified as wild card options. For the most part, you know what players in the caliber of Lillard, Jokic, CJ McCollum, and Michael Porter Jr. are capable of, but those two players on each team can’t win games by themselves in most cases. Players like Norman Powell or Jusuf Nurkic for Portland, and Aaron Gordon and Facundo Campazzo for Denver are all players capable of swinging a game in their team’s direction depending on the game, and which supporting cast steps up tonight could decide the fate of the game.
What Others Are Saying
Ryan Blackburn of the Denver Stiffs talks about the possible outcomes as well as positives and negatives for each in the Nuggets final game.
There are benefits and detriments to the Nuggets winning or losing their game against the Blazers on Sunday. If the Nuggets want to ensure that they avoid the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, they can guarantee that by losing to the Blazers, who clinch a top six seed in that scenario. That’s a benefit in my eyes.
Others believe that the Nuggets should welcome the challenge of facing the Lakers in the first round and attempt to play them in the first round, doing so by trying to win the final game if the season. The Lakers aren’t completely healthy with LeBron James and Anthony Davis still working their way back from injuries. The Nuggets, though they have injuries themselves, might be better off trying to best the Lakers earlier in the playoffs rather than later.
Mike Singer of the Denver Post talked about potential match ups against both the Blazers and Mavericks in the first round.
Denver doesn’t want to see the Lakers in the first round, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to. It’s far more interesting to dive into the Portland-vs.-Dallas question. On one hand, Denver’s 2-0 vs. the Trail Blazers this season and just 1-2 against the Mavericks. Dallas is tied (with Denver) for the best record in the NBA over the last 15 games (11-4). On the other, the Blazers have, by far, the best offensive rating in the NBA (120.4 points per 100 possessions) over that time span.
The question is: Would Denver rather deal with Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Norm Powell against a depleted, albeit defensive-oriented, backcourt or would it rather take its chances against a generational talent like Luka Doncic? While I think the Nuggets would likely be favored in both series, the health of Kristaps Porzingis is a huge swing factor. Before Wednesday night, he’d missed seven consecutive games due to knee soreness.