Game 58 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets

Blazers: 32-25

Nuggets: 34-25

Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:30 PM. TV: ESPN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM).

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6’3″, Utah), SG Rudy Fernandez (#5, 6’6″, Spain), SF Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5″, Marquette), PF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8″, France), C LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11”, Texas)

Projected Denver Starting Lineup: PG Ty Lawson (#3, 5’11”, North Carolina), SG Arron Afflalo (#6, 6’5″, UCLA), SF Danilo Gallinari (6’10”, Italy), PF Kenyon Martin (#4, 6’9″, Cincinatti), C Nene (#31, 6’11”, Brazil)

The Blazers made a splash at the trade deadline yesterday, landing Gerald Wallace for Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, and two picks. While this trade is a huge step forward for Portland in both the short and long term, it leaves them more than a little shorthanded tonight. As of this writing, Wallace will not be available for the season-series finale against the new-look Denver Nuggets. With Marcus Camby’s return uncertain and Cunningham, a valuable bench contributor, headed for Charlotte, Portland’s bench tonight consists entirely of guards and Luke Babbitt.

I’ll forgive you if you haven’t heard about the move the Nuggets made this week, because it wasn’t very highly publicized. Some guy named after a candy bar was shipped to New York. People say he had a lot of potential and could someday become a serviceable NBA player.

All kidding aside, the Carmelo Anthony trade has radically reshaped Denver’s roster, with Ty Lawson replacing Chauncey Billups as the starting point guard and Danilo Gallinari taking Melo’s spot. Backup forward Wilson Chandler scored 16 points off the bench last night in his Nuggets debut. Chandler, remember, gave the Blazers fits at the beginning of the season and was the catalyst for a Knicks rally that nearly led to a come-from-behind win over Portland. They’ll want to keep an eye on him.

The lack of size could be the killer tonight for Portland, with only LaMarcus Aldridge to contend with Nene, Kenyon Martin, and a resurgent Chris Andersen and his accompanying tattoos. Nicolas Batum will start at power forward, and if either one of them gets into foul trouble, we may finally get a chance to see what Luke Babbitt can do. I like Portland’s chances against Denver with Wallace in the lineup, but not so much tonight. Luckily, this is only one game, and Wallace will make his Blazers debut on Sunday against the Hawks.

The other point of interest for this game is Brandon Roy, who made his return to the court in Wednesday’s loss to the Lakers and didn’t exactly fill up the stat sheet but looked like he had two functioning knees. If he continues to play well tonight, it might be hard for Nate McMillan to stick to his 15-minute limit for Roy given how shorthanded they are, but, again, it’s one game.

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