Trail Blazers/Nuggets Pre-Game
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  1. DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 03/07/2010 10:40 AM

    After a much deserved three day rest, Portland (37-27) heads back to the hardwood to face divisional rival Denver (41-21) in a nationally televised broadcast. The two teams split both games earlier this year at the Rose Garden with Denver edging out Portland, 97-94, due to missed free throws down the stretch and Portland exacting revenge on Christmas Day, 107-96, behind Roy's 41 points. In a season that has saw Portland get monkey's off of their back in historically difficult arenas to win in (San Antonio, Dallas x2), the Trail Blazers will get another chance for a improbable win. Since the 1999-00 season, the Trail Blazers are a disastrous 3-17 in the Pepsi Center. Really, the Nuggets haven't been competitive since the middle of the prior decade, but they have always been one of those thorns in our sides, regardless of team record. A combination of the altitude and historical bug-a-boo will make this one of Portland's toughest games played to date.

    With Kenyon Martin out for an indefinite amount of time with a partially torn patella tendon, an already limited Denver front-court now becomes razor thin. Looking back at their last game against Indiana, Denver inserted Joey Graham into the starting lineup in place of K-Mart with seldom-used big men, Johan Petro and Malik Allen, getting left over minutes. If Aldridge is on his game, being aggressive in wanting the basketball and attacking the hoop, the Nuggets will be in a Catch-22 situation. If they try to stick the 6'7" Graham or 6'8" Anthony on LA, he will simply shoot over them down in the post with either the baby hook across the middle or the fade away from the baseline. Want to try Nene on the L-Train? Be my guest. A better defender than the previous two, Nene may be the more logical answer to solve the problem Aldridge will cause Denver. If the two ever get matched up, look for LaMarcus to either take him outside for the jumper or try to out quick him off of the dribble. Most of the time I want Aldridge on the blocks at all times, but maybe being on the perimeter may not be the worst of ideas if Nene is assigned to him. It would force Nene to stay away from the paint, which will allow for more offensive rebounding opportunities and clear the lane for drives by Roy, Bayless, and Miller.

    Denver possesses three of the deadliest offensive players in the league which scare me to death when thinking of trying to defend them. Melo, Chauncey, and J.R. Smith average approximately 64 points combined and if Portland wants to have any chance at getting a win they must find a way to not let them exceed that average. Anthony, in particular, has abused the Blazers this year. In the two previous games, he has put up averages of 36.5 points, on 50% shooting, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. When he gets hot, Carmelo is a rare breed of NBA scorer whom can't be stopped, unless he isn't allowed to touch the basketball. As soon as he gets his man in the triple threat position, it's over. He's quick enough to blow right by his defender to get to the hoop and has one of the smoothest mid-range jumpers in the game. Although he has lit up Portland like a Christmas Tree this year, the Blazers should take some solace in knowing their top man defender Nicolas Batum was absent for both games. We've all seen what Batum can do to disrupt dominant shooters, most notably his 4th quarter/overtime defense on Dirk Nowitzki. If Nico can keep Anthony out of the paint and force him into tough jumpers, his length should be enough to bother him. Great defenders can only do so much though. Let's hope he isn't having another one of "those" nights.

    For the Trail Blazers to get a much needed victory in hopes of moving up the food chain in the Western race, their bench needs to completely outclass Denver's. I don't think Brandon is completely 100% back yet, so banking on him heading into the phone booth only to re-emerge with a cape and carrying us to a win is not a smart bet. The key for our bench is to not only match but exceed the energy Carter, Smith, an Birdman play with, especially at home in front of their frenzied fans. Already without Martin, it looks like the Trail Blazes will catch another break as Ty Lawson is listed as out indefinitely with a sore shoulder after injuring it last Sunday in L.A. Obviously we'll need one or two of our 2nd string players to get hot from the field, but tonight, it will all start on the defensive end of the court. Bayless must pester Anthony Carter for 94 feet, Webster and Rudy must always find J.R. Smith in transition and consistently put a hand up on his 3 point attempts, and imperative that Dante keep the Birdman off of the offensive glass. If Portland can thwart a very productive Denver bench, it will force an already depleted Nugget starting five into exerting much more effort than originally planned. The bottom line is Portland must either outscore the Denver bench or hold them under 25 bench points.

    The Nuggets average 107.47 points per game, good enough for 2nd best in the league, but that number increases to 112.2 a night when they play at the Pepsi Center. Unsurprisingly, Denver not only scores more at home but wins at a much higher clip playing in front of the home crowd. They are 27-5 when trying to protect home court, 3rd best home record in the entire NBA. If those stats don't put the Blazers back's against the wall enough, we do not fair well in uptempo, high-scoring affairs. When we allow our opponents to score over 100 point, only 4 wins in 19 attempts are the results, bad enough for a .211 winning percentage. With all that has been presented, it looks like the deck is stacked pretty heavily in Denver's favor. On one hand, I love our chances against a Nuggets team missing Martin and Lawson, but we could be without Marcus Camby after he rolled his ankle in practice. On the other hand, past and present trends have shown Portland fares horribly in the altitude of Colorado and against teams who score in bunches. Call me skeptical, but I'll take the latter as the most likely scenario occurring tonight. The game will be tightly contested throughout, but I just don't think we'll be able to match them basket for basket. Prove me wrong Blazers!
    Game 65 Prediction: Trail Blazers 103 Nuggets 109
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