Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/20/12
Mile high visits Rip City The Portland Trail Blazers will play host to the Denver Nuggets Thursday night, and a win at the Rose Garden would put the team back to .500 for the 2012-13 season. Matchup: Portland (11-12) vs. Denver Nuggets (14-12) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 Coming off a dramatic win against the New Orleans Hornets, Portland has momentum, but the question is, will that be enough to take down a tough division rival? Game Notes/How They Match Up Andre Miller is set to return to the Rose Garden. (Photo: The Oregonian) The Nuggets and the Blazers have both struggled on defense this season, but the difference is that Denver has been a great offensive team. They are averaging 102 points per game, which is good enough for sixth in the league, and they have a bench that has three players in their top 7 for scoring. Portland has been a middle-of-the-pack offensive squad this year, and their bench has been hands-down the worst in the league at putting points on the board. Part of the difference in scoring comes from Denver’s willingness—and ability—to get out and run. They play at the fourth-highest pace in the NBA, and they are extremely efficient in fast-break situations. The Blazers haven’t been able to translate their desire to run into success, and Denver will look to take advantage in the transition game. What to Watch: Portland As impressive as the Blazers’ last-second victory was against the New Orleans Hornets, people are quickly forgetting that the Blazers were outscored by double-digits in the fourth quarter. Portland went into the final period up 13 points. Their defense had been doing a good job of containing the go-to scorers of New Orleans, and their own scorers had been doing a good job of playing at a consistent pace without Wesley Matthews. However, the fourth quarter came around and the team’s youth began to show. They went through mini scoring droughts, they gave up too many easy looks and they took a game that was once in control down to the final possession. If Portland gets a lead against Denver, they have to keep it. The Nuggets are too good at scoring quickly, and the Blazers’ defense will have more trouble containing a hot Denver squad than a mediocre team from New Orleans. What to Watch: Denver The Nuggets don’t have one star player they turn to when they need buckets, which for the past few seasons is what has made them so dangerous. They are a deep roster, they have guys who can score all across the bench and they are a dangerous team when they start hot. That will cause a huge problem for Portland, who struggles to stop teams that are far worse than Denver. Damian Lillard has another tough point guard matchup ahead. (Photo: AP) Portland is going to have to lock down defensively no matter who is on the floor. The Nuggets have the firepower to support their top options, and there won’t be a dull moment when they’re on the floor at the Rose Garden Arena. Key Matchup The battle at the point guard position is going to be one spot to keep your eye on. Rookie point guard Damian Lillard has faced a number of top-tier point guards this season, and he’ll find himself up against another All-Star-caliber floor general Thursday night. Ty Lawson is averaging 14.5 points and seven assists per game, and his best asset is hands-down his blinding speed. He’ll look to run circles around Damian Lillard in this one, and he’ll look to take advantage of any chance he gets to score the ball or set up his teammates. While Lillard’s ceiling could very well be higher, Lawson is the more proven player at this point. Fans in Portland are raving about Lillard this season—especially following his heroics against New Orleans—but Lawson has the edge at this point until proven otherwise. Injury Report Portland: OUT—LaMarcus Aldridge, DAY-TO-DAY—Joel Freeland, Wesley Matthews, Sasha Pavlovic, Nolan Smith Denver: N/A Prediction The Nuggets are going to be a tough team for Portland to take down at home. Unless they can muster up a great defensive performance, they’ll have to wait another day to reach the .500 mark. Blazers 96 – Denver 111 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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