January 23, 2014 at 2:21 PM #53110
Qbin Missile CrisisKeymaster
The Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets are both nursing back-to-back losses, and with their upcoming matchup on TNT, both will be looking for vindication in front of a national television audience. At the half-way mark of the season, neither team would qualify as good on defense. In fact, both teams have been downright awful at times, leading us to believe a whole lot of points will be scored at the Moda Center Thursday night.
Denver (20-20) at Portland (31-11)
Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Portland -7
The Denver Nuggets are scoring 103.3 points per game this season—the 11th-best mark in the NBA—and they’re doing it with the 11th-highest efficiency in the NBA. That said, their points are often a result of their blinding pace, which is the fifth-fastest in the entire Association.
On the year, Denver is 10th in fastbreak points per game and third in efficiency. The Blazers have certainly picked up the pace from years past, but if Denver has a chance of winning, the goal will be to run them out of the gym.
Defensively, look for them to focus on the stars of the show in Rip City. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are candidates for the 2014 All-Star game in New Orleans, and they’ll once again be the focus of the offense against Denver. The Nuggets are just 24th when it comes to points allowed, and that could be an important theme if the Blazers’ go-to scorers get going.
As bad as Denver has been on defense this season, the Blazers are worse. They’re giving up 103.5 points per contest—the 27th-best mark in the 30-team league—and they have virtually no answer at the rim when it comes to giving up points in the paint.
As much as people league-wide want to point at Aldridge and Robin Lopez when it comes to low-post defense, the bigger story comes on the perimeter. Portland is not doing a satisfactory job when it comes to halting penetration, which causes rotation issues and two-on-one situations for opposing offenses.
In this one, Lillard will be challenged by Ty Lawson. The 26-year-old, standing all of 5’11”, is averaging 18 points and 8.9 assists while posting a PER of 20.17. He’s going to be a challenge for Lillard on the three-point line, and if the Portland guard can’t stay in front of his man, it will be a long night for the bigs who have to clean up his mess.
If you’ve only gathered one concept here, it’s this: Defense will be scarce on Thursday, and there will be no shortage of points. Expect and up-and-down game from the both teams, but the difference will be shooting. The Blazers are the No. 2 three-point shooting team in the NBA, while the Nuggets are just 15th.
In Denver’s defense, they do a good job of stopping the three-point line on a regular basis. But if they get down early and need to comeback with the long ball, things could get out of hand in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Portland 115 – Denver 103
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