Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/14/13
End of a tough stretch The Portland Trail Blazers have faced the Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder in consecutive games, and now they head to Mile-High City to take on the ultra-athletic Denver Nuggets. Matchup: Portland (20-17) @ Denver Nuggets (23-16) Venue: Pepsi Center Time: 6:00 PM PT Date: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 If there’s a tougher four-game stretch in the NBA right now, I haven’t heard of it. Portland needs this win to keep its confidence high, as losses to the Warriors and Thunder make you wonder just how well this team can compete with the elites in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers are in for a challenge against one of the best home teams in the league. (Photo: UPI/Gary C. Caskey) Game Notes/How They Match Up The Denver Nuggets are one of the top scoring teams in the NBA this season, as they’re averaging an impressive 102.4 points per contest. They know how to put the ball in the basket, but the dangerous part is that they know how to clean up their own mistakes. Denver is the No. 1 rebounding team in the NBA, and they pull down more offense boards than any other squad in the league. Creating second-chance opportunities is key when it comes to scoring, and the Nuggets are the best that there is to offer. Portland, on the other hand, is middle-of-the-road in rebounds, so they’ll need to score on their first attempts. They average 96.8 points per game, so efficiency will be crucial on both ends of the floor. What to Watch: Portland It’s true that the Blazers have been able to close out games nicely this season. They’re 5-0 in overtime, and they’ve shown that they have a multitude of scorers they can trust with the game on the line. So why have they dropped their last two close contests? When this team gets behind early, it’s tough for the starters to make up the difference late. They pulled off a comeback win against the Miami Heat, but when put in the same situation the past two games, they’ve fallen just short. Portland needs to stay in this game the entire way. If they can keep it close from start to finish, they’ll have the energy to finish strong. However, if they let the high-octane offense of the Nuggets take advantage early, their attempt at a comeback could very well come up short for the third time in a row. What to Watch: Denver The tough part about game planning for the Nuggets is that they don’t have a single go-to scorer who takes over on a regular basis. Their leading scorer is Danilo Gallinari, who is averaging 16.5 points per game, but they have five players behind him averaging double-digits and three more averaging at least 7.9 points per contest. If one of their top scorers is off, expect somebody else to step up. The Blazers need to be on their game defensively, as no one player can assume they’re going to be faced with an easy matchup. Danilo Gallinari will make up one half of the key matchup Tuesday night. (Photo: AP) Denver can kill you from all over their roster, which means you have to prepare for a good game at every single position. Key Matchup The last time the Trail Blazers met the Nuggets—Dec. 20—Nicolas Batum outplayed Danilo Gallinari by a long shot. The Blazers’ forward had 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting—including 5-of-9 from behind the three-point line—and he managed to record six rebounds and two blocks en route to an eight-point victory. Galilinari, on the other hand, had just six points on an ugly 1-of-10 shooting. The big difference this time around is that the Blazers are back on the road—not in the comfort of the Rose Garden Arena. Nicolas Batum is averaging more than five points less on the road this season than he is at home. If he’s going to win this battle for a second time in a row, he must produce against a player who is capable of going off offensively. Injury Report Portland: DOUBTFUL—Meyers Leonard, DAY-TO-DAY—LaMarcus Aldridge Denver: DAY-TO-DAY—Wilson Chandler Prediction The Nuggets are 14-2 at home this season, and Pepsi Center will prove to be a tough place for the Blazers to find success. Blazers 98 – Nuggets 108 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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