Feb 29, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets power forward Al Harrington (7) holds Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the fourth quarter of the game at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets defeated the Trail Blazers 104-95. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Pre-Season Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (1-2) vs. Denver Nuggets (3-0)

After taking a 117-100 loss to the Sacramento Kings on  Monday, the Portland Trail Blazers will look to rebound tonight with a win over the ever-so deep Denver Nuggets.

Blazers’ Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C Meyers Leonard or J.J. Hickson

Nuggets’ Starting 5: PG Ty Lawson, SG Andre Iguodala, SF Danilo Gallinari, PF Kenneth Faried, C Timofey Mozgov

What U Need 2 Know

  • It’s official: LaMarcus Aldridge, like every other NBA superstar, isn’t going to go overboard in pre-season basketball. He said in an interview with CSNNW’s Chris Haynes that he was just trying to “go with the flow of the game,” and that he “wasn’t trying to do one thing too much.” So don’t expect to see LMA go for 25 and 10 tonight against Denver.
  • Ty Lawson’s camp is still waiting for the Nuggets to give him the extension he deserves. There’s no Darrelle Revis-type holdout coming or anything, but not having a deal on the table has to be in the back of their point guard’s mind.
If I had to bet money tonight, it’d be on the Nuggets solely because their second string could probably take on half of the NBA’s starting rotations. And especially now that they’ve got Andre Iguodala (no more Arron Afflalo) on the roster, Denver is looking like a team that’s ready to make that jump into the Top 4 teams in the West (OKC, LAL, LAC, DEN/SAS).
The Blazers, on the other hand, are still in the middle of an identity crisis. Are they a team that’s going to get out on the break, or will they get into their sets and run the offense through L.A.? Is each starter a solid enough defender to keep Terry Stotts’ iso defense in tact, or will someone have to come with the help?
These are questions that will be answered over the next few games, and I’m not exactly expecting positive feedback. But as for tonight, it’ll be a great measuring stick game to see how far Portland has come, and how far they still have to go. Even if it’s merely a pre-season game, taking on your steadily improving division rival is nothing to be taken lightly.
Key Matchups:
Lillard vs. Lawson: This will be the first time Damian Lillard is taking on a guard that is better than him on all ends of the floor. Ty Lawson is a consistent shooter, a pest on defense, and easily one of the fastest, quickest guards in the NBA. Even though he’s only 5’10”, Lawson plays within the flow of the offense, getting his buckets by either attacking the basket or spotting up for open jump shots. Lillard will have to mind his P’s and Q’s if he’s not going to get burned tonight.
The advantage he does have, however, is his size. I’m not sure if he knows how to use it yet, but Lillard has a good four inches over Lawson, as well as longer arms and a bigger frame. He’ll have to use that in his favor if he’s going to get those buckets tonight.
Matthews vs. Iguodala: Andre Iguodala is one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders, and Wesley Matthews is still trying to refine his mid range game. Tonight is a perfect opportunity to put whatever newly-learned moves to the test and score on the Nuggets’ defensive anchor.
I want to see him attack Iguodala, even if it leads to turnovers, and create some space to get a shot off. Enough jacking up threes. Show me something new, Wesley.
Batum vs. Gallinari/Chandler: If this wasn’t a pre-season game, I’d be expecting this $50 million baby to go for at least 30 tonight. Batum has the clear speed advantage, and is a better athlete than many give him credit for. Gallo might be a lethal shooter from three, but he’s slow on his feet. Like Matthews, I want to see Batum attack Gallo at least twice tonight and get some buckets at the basket.
Aldridge vs. Faried: I know L.A.’s not going to shift into full-gear tonight, but we all know that this is an obvious mismatch. What I’m looking for is how fast Aldridge will react to the double-team, and whether he makes the right decision or not. What his teammates do with the ball is out of his hands.
After tonight, Portland will have three more games until the start of the regular season. And they’ll need everything to be in order so they can bring their A-game for opening night against the L.A. Lakers on Oct. 31st.
Fun Facts:
  • Damian Lillard’s mom is living with him throughout his rookie season, doing all of the cooking, cleaning and laundry so that her son can focus on basketball and winning the Rookie of the Year Award. If that’s not one dedicated momma, I don’t know what is.
  • ESPN has labeled JaVale McGee as the Dennis Rodman/Ron Artest oddball of the 2010’s. I wonder what he thinks of that.
@BriscoXCI | e-mail me: [email protected]


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