The Portland Trail Blazers are rolling, having won their first three games to start the 2022-23 NBA campaign. The last time the Blazers won three in a row to begin a season, Damian Lillard was a senior at Weber State University in 2011-2012.
Portland’s next challenge will be getting through the Denver Nuggets, led by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.
On Sunday afternoon, Rip City downed the Los Angeles Lakers in a 106-104 nail biter. Damian Lillard was the catalyst yet again, with another 41 point game on 60 percent shooting from the field. He did not receive much help from his supporting cast outside of Jerami Grant, who pitched in with 16 points on two for three from distance.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets have notched two wins, and one defeat at the hands of the number one seed Utah Jazz. They are enjoying the returns of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back into their rotation, and are looking to solidify chemistry early in the season.
Monday, October 24 - 7:00 P.M PT
How To Watch on TV: NBA TV, Root Sports Plus, Altitude
Nuggets Injuries: Collin Gillespie (out)
Blazers Injuries: Olivier Sarr (out), Gary Payton II (out), Trendon Watford (day-to-day), Justise Winslow (questionable)
SBN Affiliate: Denver Stiffs
- Nikola Jokic: It goes without saying that the primary focus for the Blazers on defense will be the two-time MVP. Jokic is up to his old ways, shooting nearly 63 percent from the floor. He averages 19.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and seven assists against Jusuf Nurkic in 12 career games. The Joker is also averaging a career high 9.7 assists, spearheading the fourth-best assist team in the league this year. It will be imperative for the Blazers to stop ball early in transition to prevent Jokic from facilitating the break. It will also be incumbent upon head coach Chauncey Billups to experiment with zones, as Jokic is too good one-on-one, and even better at passing out of the double team, and will do so gladly with all of his snipers in position.
- Numbers on the Board: The Denver Nuggets allow 121 points per game scored from their opponents. That’s good for fifth worst in the association. Meanwhile, Portland is the ninth best in the league, conceding 109.5 points per game. Portland must contain the 11th best offense, while putting up points of their own. Staying disciplined on defense will aid these efforts.
- The Others: As Shaquille O’Neal calls them, the supporting casts for both teams will be instrumental in how the game plays out. For the Nuggets, when Nikola Jokic exits the game, not having the likes of a DeMarcus Cousins to give you 10-12 minutes of quality inside production heaps more pressure on Porter Jr. and Murray to deliver. As for the Blazers, they don’t have the luxury of being able to go small without Nurkic on the floor, when Jokic is wreaking havoc. And when Dame sits, Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons will need to do much more than combine for 28 points on 10-28 shooting. Rip City’s second unit will need to do better than score 23, 24, and 22 points respectively. They’ve only had two double digit scoring performances off the pine in three games. That will not suffice long term.
What Others are Saying
Mike Singer of the Denver Post kept it short and sweet when diagnosing the Nuggets from a general standpoint:
“What the Nuggets have building is an enormous offensive force. Plug a leak, and the Nuggets have counters for that fix. If the defense can get even marginally better, most teams won’t have the personnel to keep up.”
Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian contextualized Josh Hart’s impact on the game, on and off of the stats sheet, and gives a platform to Damian Lillard’s high praise of his teammate:
Through three games, Hart is second on the team in rebounds (30), tied for the lead in steals (five) and assists (13), all while leading the team in field goal percentage (56%). He also ranks rank fourth in scoring (12.7 points per game), despite averaging just 8.3 shots per game.With Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant likely to lead the Blazers (3-0) in scoring, the starting lineup needed someone to do a lot of the dirty work while also being able to take advantage of scoring opportunities. Hart has been that guy.“ Even though it’s early in the season, I love being his teammate and being on the floor with him just because of what he brings to our team and the way he plays,” Lillard said. “It makes it fun to be on the floor with him.”