Trail Blazers @ Nuggets: Game 76 Preview
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  1. DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 04/01/2010 1:16 PM

    After winning their fourth straight game and ninth in their last 10, Portland (46-29) heads to the Mile High City to take on a struggling Denver (48-27) squad who has lost five of six without their head coach who is undergoing cancer treatment. The Trail Blazers went 11-2 in March but only went 3-2 against teams above .500 including a complete beating behind the woodshed to these same Nuggets on March 7th, 118-106, in a game which the score was not indicative of how badly Denver dominated the contest from start to finish. Similar to games in Phoenix and Oklahoma City these past couple weeks, tonight's game is a de facto elimination game for the 5th seed. After losing to Phoenix, there is now no shot at catching them while winning at OKC gives the Blazers the upper hand at the 6th seed. A win tonight puts Portland only one back in the loss column of the Nuggets and lays down the path for the team to possibly run the table the rest of the season.

    The absolute biggest key tonight is Brandon Roy. At the Rose Garden, the role players are usually in more of a comfort zone and can be relied on to produce more, lightening the load for B-Roy. On the other hand, when the Blazers head into the Pepsi Center tonight, where the Nuggets are an intimidating 30-6, and Portland has only won once since 2003, the team needs their superstar to lead the way tonight. Brandon is the franchise and has done very few things wrong during his tenure with Rip City, but he should shoulder most of the blame for the loss at Denver three weeks ago. He came out very casual and looked like a zombie out there for most of the night, going 3-14 while Denver's stud, Carmelo Anthony, took the game over with 30 points on 11-19 shooting. As the leader, the team followed Roy's suit and the game was over before the 1st quarter. Roy was told the honest truth by Webster at the half and since has been playing like the 2nd Team All-NBA player he is. This Denver team is slumping, struggling and without their leader; they are ripe for the picking. Roy needs to be the aggressor early like he was in New Orleans and make sure Portland is in the thick of things come the 4th quarter, but he needs to keep us afloat for three quarters.

    Just as important as getting Roy off on the right foot, stifling and frustrating Melo needs to be defensive priority #1. In three games this season against Portland, Anthony has gone bananas, averaging 34.3 points on 52.4% field goal shooting while finding himself at the foul line nearly 14 times a game. Batum is obviously going to get the first crack at Carmelo, but what makes him so difficult of a cover for Nico is Melo's brute strength to match his cat quickness. Once he gets the rock in the triple threat position, he is arguably the most lethal cover in all of the NBA. He's quick enough to blow by for the lay-up or get to the line and he is probably the best mid-range jump shooter in the league. What Nico has to do is get physical with him, much a he did against Durant by trying to deny him the ball. A lot of the time, you must simply pray he doesn't have the offensive juices flowing on the night. If he does catch fire, Portland needs to adjust on the fly and force others to beat them by either double teaming him or trapping him in the corner. Going by recent history this season, if Anthony is able to score in the 35 point range, Portland will lose. The one time we negated it occurred when Roy had to outscore him on Christmas when he dropped 41, but scoring in bunches like that is not Brandon's M.O. Defense wins the game tonight.

    Without Kenyon Martin, the Nuggets lose almost all of their toughness. Tonight, Portland must get nasty and punch Denver in the mouth (figuratively speaking). Lately when the Nuggets have been getting hit first, they back down and crumble for the rest of the game. Make sure all loose balls are won, keep Denver off of the offensive boards, and be strong in takes to the bucket are facets of the game the Trail Blazers must do to ensure they have a shot at the 5th seed. I want to see hard fouls by the Blazers if Denver gets into the lane, making them thing twice about trying to score inside again. By doing all of this, it could get into their mind and cause an explosion. Without George Karl, these Nuggets are a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at any minute. Adrian Dantley just doesn't have the strong personality to keep these guys in check. Last year, I doubt Portland would have the savvy or experience to be able to adapt to their surroundings and find holes in the opposing team, but with added veterans in Camby, Howard, and Miller, who have all been there, done that allow for this strategy to be more than just a dream.

    Denver averages 111 points at home and we all saw how well Portland does when they try to outscore the Nuggets in the Pepsi Center; it just doesn't work. The Trail Blazers have only scored 111+ six times in 75 games this year. Its safe to say defensive stops wins the game tonight, not taking part in a 120-110 wild west shootout. Rotations to their three-point shooters must be quicker, because the last thing the team needs is Afflalo or Smith heating up from behind the arc due to open jumpers, which occurred way to frequent in the previous meeting.

    One thing to take note from during the last meeting was the fact Marcus Camby was not available due to injury. At the time, it didn't seem like much of a loss as Camby was taking a while to get acclimated with this current team, now looking back, it was a monumental loss. Outside of Roy, Camby will be the difference maker tonight. He should be able to keep Birdman from put-back dunks, Nene from wreaking havoc on the glass, and dare I say contain Johan Petro who pulled down 10 boards in Martin's absence. As long as Portland can weather the opening storm Denver will bring down upon Portland, as they are tired of losing and are out to prove themselves once again, look for the Blazers to slowly take control of the game as it progresses deep into the 4th. Roy leads the charge on offense, Camby on defense as the Trail Blazers exercise yet another road demon and stay in the race for 5th.

    Game 76 Prediction: Trail Blazers 106 Nuggets 101
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  1. ClydeFrog
    Posts: 975

    Posted 04/01/2010 4:10 PM

    For us to get another great road win, we need to neutralize momentum. We can't let Smith hit 2 or 3 threes in a row or let Birdman send a shot flying into the 3rd row. Denver is looking for any window opening to uplift their spirits. We need to constantly keep them at bay like we did the Thunder.
    I am a fan of Watching Elliot Williams Take Flight!
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