Trail Blazers vs Nuggets Wednesday, 02/27/13 AT 07:30PM

Trail Blazers Ready For Big, Fast-Paced Nuggets Team

02/26/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Portland Trail Blazers (26-30) look to build over their streak-snapping win on Sunday as they face the Denver Nuggets (36-22) in a Northwest division match-up. Denver and Portland have split the two games in the season series up to this point with the home team holding serve in both games. Tip-off at the Rose Garden is set for 7:30 and the game will be shown on CSNNW and televised nationally on ESPN. It can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. Also, the first 10,000 fans who arrive at the Rose Garden will receive a Damian Lillard poster as part of the Trail Blazers Wednesday Night poster series.

        •    The first match-up between these two teams was an outlier. It's hard to look at a historically awful shooting night any other way. The Nuggets went 0-for-22 from three and only made one shot from outside of the paint the entire night. The Trail Blazers were able to survive being without their All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge for this night as the Trail Blazers won 101-93 as they relied heavily on their three-point shot. They took 36, nearly 13 more than their per game average, hitting 14. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum combined for 42 points  and nine of those three-pointers to go along with JJ Hickson's 18-point, 18-rebound performance. However, what will be a more reliable indicator of the type of game we will see on Wednesday was their up-and-down match-up in Denver in January. The Trail Blazers and Nuggets jumped out to a monster offensive first quarters and the type of play carried on for most of the night. The Nuggets relentless fast-breaking style of play seemed to catch-up to the Trail Blazers in the third quarter when the Nuggets took control of the game. The Nuggets were able to get 22 fast break points to Portland's seven but the Trail Blazers were able to claw back in the fourth quarter, with Wesley Matthews hitting a three-pointer that eventually sent the game into overtime. In overtime, the ferocious back and forth continued but a well-defended Denver possession ended in a tough, contested corner-3 by Wilson Chandler that went down and with it. Denver sold out to defend the three-point line forcing a tough look from deep by Damian Lillard that didn't go. The Nuggets won 115-111 in overtime despite 30 points from LaMarcus Aldridge and 22 from Nicolas Batum.
       
    •    Eric Maynor made his Trail Blazer debut on Sunday night in 14:49 minutes of play. Maynor finished with two points and three assists on just one-of-five shooting. However, despite Maynor's low shooting percentage on Sunday, he already looked comfortable running Portland's offense. He has making reads and running solid pick and rolls to find guys in the right position. Maynor's Synergy numbers from this year can't really be looked at as an indicator due to him just removing his knee brace a few weeks ago and the small sample size. However, it was just his first game and he was being used sparingly in Oklahoma City before he got traded, so a little bit of rust is understandable. Either way ,the early returns were encouraging as Maynor continues to get acclimated to his new situation in Portland. In the Nuggets, Stotts is presented with another opportunity to go with line-ups like we saw for brief moments on Sunday, with a Maynor-Lillard backcourt. Nuggets head coach and Stotts' old friend and colleague, George Karl, uses a two-point guard backcourt with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller. Something that is different from the previous match-up, besides the addition of Maynor is the scoring and efficiency uptick from Ty Lawson. In 11 games in the month of February, Lawson is averaging 22.6 points per game with 8.6 assists and 61.3% true shooting percentage (a metric combining field goal shooting, free-throw shooting and three-point shooting). He's averaging 16.4 points per game and 7.1 assists for the season but his scoring has given the Nuggets something resembling a number-one option. Lawson has improved almost all of his offensive metrics as the season has carried on and February represented his best month of the season so far. Stotts calls Lawson "the catalyst" for Denver, and the Trail Blazers will presented with the tough task of slowing him down, something that hasn't happened very much this month.
      
     •    One factor that is essential to successful basketball but imperative to beating the Nuggets is getting back on defense. The Nuggets may lack the firepower from beyond the arc, but their players get out in transition and score, a lot. The Nuggets boast a top-five offense. If your team misses a shot, Corey Brewer or Kenneth Faried or Wilson Chandler is already on their horse running to the basket. Stotts' first words when asked about  Denver were "transition, transition, transition." The Nuggets ran the Lakers up and down the court on their way to an 11-point win on Monday and the Trail Blazers have got to hustle back. The Nuggets play at the second-fastest pace in the NBA. The Nuggets are the league's second best offensive rebounding team in the league and a priority for the Trail Blazers will be getting back, so don't look for any wins on the stat-sheet there, because the Trail Blazers won't care for that. Stotts made it clear that getting back on defense and forcing the Nuggets to actually run a half-court offense, something they try to avoid. If Portland can get easy buckets to help out their own offense in addition to limiting the Nuggets transition opportunities, they will be in position to win the game.

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