The Portland Trail Blazers (31-11) will host the Denver Nuggets (20-20) tonight at 7:30 p.m. PST. The Trail Blazers are looking to rebound from a disappointing end to a tough four-game road trip. The Trail Blazers started their most challenging road trip to date on a very high note. They went into San Antonio and Dallas and walked away 2-0, but all of their momentum was halted when they made stops in Houston and Oklahoma City.
After dropping a nationally televised game in Houston (126-113) on MLK Day, the Blazers suffered another defeat in Oklahoma City (105-97). They had multiple chances to win against the Thunder but Kevin Durant would not allow that. Durant went for 46 points and ended the Blazers road trip on a sour note. Tonight’s game will be broadcast on TNT and the Blazers will have a chance at national coverage redemption.
The Denver Nuggets have been a roller coaster team all year. They played excellently during a five-game winning streak but have since lost three of four. Like the Trail Blazers, they can score the ball but struggle on the defensive side. Their projected offensive output took a huge hit when Danilo Gallinari underwent a second operation on his left knee on Tuesday. Gallinari tore his ACL in April and will be out the rest of this season. Ty Lawson has been productive against the Blazers in his young career. In games against Portland, he has scored 181 points which is his ninth best against any opponent.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- Nicolas Batum (finger) is listed as questionable. Batum played through the pain on Tuesday in Oklahoma City and may need a new splint.
- Danilo Gallinari (knee) will be out due to reconstructive ACL surgery.
- JaVale McGee (leg) will be out due to a stress fracture in his tibia. On Tuesday, McGee began doing limited work on an elliptical machine.
- Darrell Arthur (hip) will not play tonight and is doubtful for the team’s matchup with the Pacers on Saturday.
- Randy Foye (illness) has been battling a stomach illness but is confident he will be ready for tonight’s game.
- Andre Miller could return to the Nuggets lineup soon. Miller was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team in early January. That suspension has since been rescinded, and he is out on “personal leave” instead.The Nuggets were actively looking to trade Miller but have since exhausted their possible trade partners.
Keys To The Game
Nicolas Batum. Batum was key to the Blazers victory in Denver on November 1st. He was the go-to scorer early and finished with 21 points, five rebounds, and five assists. After breaking his finger, Batum seemed not to be bothered by the injury. His hustle and production showed no signs of slowing. In Houston, Batum’s finger was slapped and caused it to swell. He played through the pain on Tuesday in Oklahoma City but struggled to have his normal impact. He was 1-4 shooting for three points and added five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. The Blazers will need Batum to play but it might be wise to let him rest if the swelling and pain continues.
Ty Lawson and J.J. Hickson. As noted, Lawson plays very well against Portland. The teams are division opponents and play four times each year which may contribute to his success. He is leading the Nuggets in scoring, assists, and steals at 18.0 points, 8.9 assists, and 1.5 steals. J.J. Hickson now plays against the Blazers instead of for them. Hickson was a fan favorite when he was in Portland because he always hustled and pounded the glass. Hickson has averaged 9.2 rebounds per game this year and the Trail Blazers will need to limit his action on the glass and in the paint.
Fast Start. Jason Hortsch, a fellow Rip City Project writer, wrote an interesting article on Tuesday. He stated that early lapses in defense have been a factor in almost every loss this season. The Blazers have allowed at least one big quarter to their opponents in every single loss. What constitutes a big quarter? How about given up at least 30 points.. The Blazers have to fix their mindset entering games. We know they have been most productive in the second half this season but the defense has to play all four quarters. If this pattern continues, the Blazers will struggle to solidify their playoff position.