The Denver Nuggets face the Portland Trail Blazers in what looks to be the best game of the night between two teams above .500 in the Western Conference. The game will take place at Moda Center at 10pm EST.
The Nuggets are coming off three straight losses, with the latest being a 116-115 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. This comes after a four game win streak that just preceded their losing streak. A defense that should be top 10 in the league has also allowed 118 points per game in their last three. Not only that, but there is a clear home/away scoring disparity. At home, they are one of the best in the league allowing just 107 points per game whereas away, that average goes up to 117.7. In a game where they play in Portland, this does not bode well for their chances of winning.
The Trail Blazers are coming off back-to-back wins at the perfect time, with Damian Lillard returning this past Sunday against the Indiana Pacers and leading them to a 16 point win. Prior to those wins, they lost seven games out of their last eight. The push Lillard gives is evident, and they are going to need to see more of that tonight.
How Denver Can Win:
A big reason for the loss to the Mavericks was because Nikola Jokic missed clutch free throws that likely would have given them the win. If this game becomes close near the end, Jokic and the rest of the team cannot afford to make mistakes, especially with Lillard back. On the road, the Nuggets need to limit mistakes because Lillard and the rest of the Trail Blazers team will take advantage of it in transition.
How Portland Can Win:
For the Trail Blazers, they need to put their past behind them and ride the wave with a healthy roster. We saw what this team can do early on in the season when healthy, and I expect them to go right back on track. One way they can do it is since they have a healthy roster, they have options to dish out to what the Nuggets will not be able to catch on to. Although Lillard is always the focus, Portland has the talent on their roster to be too much for the Nuggets to handle tonight.
Prediction: Portland Trail Blazers 113, Denver Nuggets 106
The Trail Blazers should be able to handle a Nuggets team that has shown an increasing number of holes in their game. I expect this to be close, but not enough for the Trail Blazers to hop off the wagon they have been riding on.