Trail Blazers vs Nuggets Tuesday, 01/15/13 AT 06:00PM

Trail Blazers In Denver For Divisional Tilt

01/14/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    On Tuesday night, the Trail Blazers (20-17) will face the Denver Nuggets (23-16) in Denver for the second meeting between the two teams. In the previous match-up in Portland, the Trail Blazers were without LaMarcus Aldridge but still managed to win behind 22 points from Nicolas Batum. The game will tip off at 6PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 Am and 102.3 FM.

        •    Looking at previous match-ups for answers and clues to how Portland can win their upcoming one would be a fruitless endeavor. The Trail Blazers didn't have Aldridge and the Nuggets had the the worst statical shooting performance in NBA history, going 0-for-22 on threes and only hitting one shot outside of the painted area for the entire game. Without Aldridge, Portland started the game with JJ Hickson at power forward and Joel Freeland at center but Stotts turned to Luke Babbitt for most of the game. Babbitt played his  best game of the season before fouling out, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds off the bench. Portland was able to survive shooting under 36 percent, something that has become all too common as of late, as they've shot under 40 percent the last three games. Portland is coming off an emotional game that they eventually lost and the Nuggets bench made a run in the early fourth quarter to beat the Golden State Warriors at home. Their win on Sunday against Golden State was also Wilson Chandler's return from injury. Chanlder provided excellent energy to their second unit, scoring 14 points, grabbing six boards, hitting two threes and collecting three steals. Obviously, the match-up on Tuesday in Denver will be very different than their December meeting.
        
    •    Looking at the standings, this game means a lot for both teams. The Trail Blazers are eighth and the Nuggets are sixth in the Western Conference with only two games separating the two. Portland would gain ground on the Nuggets with a win and a win in Denver would be a nice lift heading after tough losses against Golden State and Oklahoma City. The emotional high from the Miami game is now gone and Portland has to figure out a way to get their groove back, especially on offense. Denver's defense is not elite by any stretch and although they have a mix of explosive athletes with size and steady rim protectors, but they aren't that hard to expose. Kenneth Faried (averaging 12.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game), lauded for his ability to hit the glass still struggles a lot with his post defense. JJ Hickson had a big game in the previous match-up but Portland needs to take advantage of match-ups with Faried on Aldridge. Faried is called the "Manimal," but it's not for his post defense as he ranks in the 24th percentile in post defense. Portland should post Aldridge on Faried when they have the opportunity. Faried may be an active rebounder but he still hasn't managed to be disruptive with his hands and cause problems for offensive players trying to get their shot on him. Aldridge had a season-high 33 points on 15 of 26 shooting against Oklahoma City so hopefully Portland will be able to ride their All-Star.
        
    •    If Aldridge can help Portland get going on the outside, that will help, but as we saw against Oklahoma City, it can't be a one-man effort. Portland needs to find their "flow," again. The Portland offense has been beautiful when they get into a rhythm but other teams have been able to stymie that rhythm. Portland can and needs to shoot better than they have the last few games. Portland won the previous meeting with a combined 42 points from Batum and Matthews. Denver's strength is their big men and Portland's has an edge on the perimeter with Batum, Matthews and Lillard. This will be a tough road game and a good test against a team that's almost a lock to make the playoffs. A win would also help Portland create more separation between themselves and the rest of the contenders for the final playoff spots like Minnesota, Utah and the Lakers. It will also be the toughest team they will face in their next four games, as they are facing lower-tier Eastern Conference teams at home for the next three games after their Denver match-up.

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