#516 Denver Nuggetsvs.#515 Portland Trailblazers
Written by Matt Severance
When/Where: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, Pepsi Center, Denver
Spread: Nuggets -1.5; total: 212.5
The Denver Nuggets are an exciting young team — probably no club of late has been better at finding international talent than Denver. Will the Nuggets make the playoffs this season? No, but they will be fun to watch. Denver has its home opener Saturday night vs. Portland.
Portland (1-1) beat visiting Utah 113-104 on Tuesday but then lost 114-106 to the visiting Clippers on Thursday in L.A.’s season opener and a rematch of last season’s first-round playoff series won by Portland in six games. The Blazers are a guard-oriented team behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Thus when Portland isn’t hitting 3-pointers, it’s probably going to lose. And against the Clippers, the Blazers were just 4-for-18 from long range. That’s how you beat this team: defend the 3. Lillard had 29 points vs. the Clips, while McCollum had 16. Al-Farouq Aminu missed all six of his shots and finished with just one point.
All the Portland starters had a positive rating vs. L.A., but every reserve was in the negative. Allen Crabbe had 10 points off the bench, but high-priced free-agent acquisition Evan Turner was a bust again with just four points in 23 minutes. The Clippers bench outscored their Blazers counterparts 43-20. The game was tied at 82 after three quarters and the Clippers’ bench gave Los Angeles a four-point edge until All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin returned to the floor and the Clippers pulled away in the final seven minutes.
Denver (1-0) couldn’t stop Anthony Davis on Wednesday night as he had 50 points and 16 rebounds but the Nuggets still won in New Orleans 107-102. Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points with nine rebounds and Will Barton added 22 in the win. Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver, Wilson Chandler added 12 points and Kenneth Faried finished with 14 rebounds — six on the offensive end to help the Nuggets end with a 14-3 advantage in second-chance points. Faried is considered a top trade candidate this season. “We don’t win the game without Kenneth Faried’s energy up-and-down the floor,” Denver coach Mike Malone said. “I thought he was fantastic in that fourth quarter.” Faried’s fourth: six points, three rebounds, two charges drawn and two huge defensive stops on Anthony Davis.
Rookie guard Jamal Murray, taken seventh overall in the NBA draft, played 13 minutes and was 0-for-2 shooting, finishing with a point. Barton is in the starting lineup for now because guard Gary Harris is out with a groin injury. Harris missed nearly all of training camp after being injured in the first preseason game. He said he did practice fully on Tuesday and had no setbacks. Harris also participated in Wednesday’s shootaround. Thus It’s quite possible he plays here. Forward Darrell Arthur also sat out with knee problems and he’s likely to miss a while.
The Trail Blazers won three of their four games against the Nuggets last year and have won 11 of their past 12 regular season games against Denver. The Blazers have won five of their past six in the Mile High City. Lillard played in just two games vs. the Nuggets last year and averaged a team-high 25.5 points. The over is 6-2 in the past eight meetings. Denver will be fired up to win its opener and is more rested.
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Matt has been a sports journalist for nearly two decades. He is a former sports editor/writer at two newspapers and a magazine. Went full-time freelance sports writer in 2008 -- not by choice then but became a life-changing decision in the best possible way. Consider myself expert on all major US sports. If you are looking for Curling or Badminton expertise, etc., I'm not your guy.