Tonight the Portland Trail Blazers (38-18) are on the road to take on the Denver Nuggets (25-30). This is the third meeting between the teams and the Trail Blazers will be looking for their third straight win this season over the Nuggets. With a win, the Trail Blazers will also extend their overall winning streak to three games.
Damian Lillard has been a godsend. The first-time All-Star has been impressive since LaMarcus Aldridge went down with a groin strain. In three games without Aldridge, Lillard is averaging 30.3 points while shooting 53 percent from the field. That puts him way over his season averages for both categories. He probably had his best performance on Sunday in the win over Minnesota (108-97) where he posted 32 points on 65 percent shooting in under 30 minutes of play.
Thomas Robinson was the most impressive player on Sunday. He powered his way to 14 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. I have been the first to criticize Robinson for not stepping up when he is needed. Sunday, Robinson proved me and a lot of others wrong. If he, and the rest of the bench, can begin to produce at that level night in and night out, this Trail Blazers team will become very dangerous. The Trail Blazers will need Lillard, Robinson, and everyone else tonight as they take on a struggling Nuggets team.
The Denver Nuggets need Ty Lawson. Lawson is the team leader in points and assists with 18.0 and 8.8 respectively. He has missed the last six games with a fractured rib and the Nuggets have faltered without him at the helm. The Nuggets have lost seven of their last eight games and are 3-7 in their last 10. It is unclear whether Lawson will be cleared to play tonight but the Nuggets chance of winning most likely depends on it.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- LaMarcus Aldridge is out with a groin strain. He has rejoined the team in Denver but will not play tonight.
- Joel Freeland is still out with an MCL sprain in his right knee.
- Meyers Leonard did not travel with the team to Denver and is out for tonight’s game. Leonard should be available within the next week.
- Ty Lawson is questionable for tonight’s game. He has resumed dribbling and running at practice but says he still feels pain when he attempts crossovers and side-to-side movements.
- Nate Robinson is out for the season after having surgery to repair a torn left ACL he suffered in January.
- Danilo Gallinari is also out for the season after undergoing reconstructive ACL surgery.
- Darrell Arthur sufffered a left hip strain on Friday and didn’t play against the Kings on Sunday. His status is day-to-day.
- JaVale McGee had season-ending surgery last Thursday and is out for the rest of the season. McGee had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left tibia.
Keys To The Game
Damian Lillard vs. Denver’s Guards. Damian Lillard is in the zone at the right time. He seems to be playing exactly like he said he would after the All-Star game. In an article written by Casey Holdahl on ForwardCenter.net, Lillard said after the All-Star game, “Just being around these guys, I’m already feeling more confident. My confidence was high before and now I’m taking more confidence from this just because now I feel like I’m one of them, I’m one of those guys. Can’t wait to take that attitude back to my team.” That confidence has been on display the past three games and I can’t wait to see what he does tonight. Denver may be without Ty Lawson. They are already without Nate Robinson which means Aaron Brooks and Randy Foye will see increased court time. Foye has been a productive fill in for the Nuggets totaling 50 points in his last two games. Whoever is matched up opposite of Lillard tonight should have their hands full.
Wesley Matthews. It’s been awhile since we’ve mentioned Matthews in a preview article. The fact is, he’s been a silent producer. He has averaged 19.6 points over the last three games but continues to fly under the radar. I believe Matthews is perfectly alright with where he stands. Against Denver this season, Matthews is averaging 22.5 points. I expect him to get his points tonight in stealth mode but the points always seem to come when the Trail Blazers need it most.
Thomas Robinson. Robinson gets another mention after his monstrous game on Sunday. After watching him play at Kansas, I was very excited to see the Trail Blazers pick him up in free agency. Robinson plays with a lot of passion and energy. He is as perfect of a bench player in the NBA you can have. Sunday’s performance proves that he can be a productive role player. I hope he can continue to play with the same intensity and hustle as he did last game. If he does, Robinson will be looking at a lot more playing time, even after Aldridge returns.