Talk about your difficult midterm exams.
As the Denver Nuggets approach the season’s halfway point, their mettle will be tested when they face the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers, who entered the week with a combined record of 63-16.
The Nuggets (20-20) play at Portland (31-9) on Thursday in a nationally televised game on TNT, and they take on the Pacers (32-7) at Pepsi Center on Saturday. Denver coach Brian Shaw spent two seasons as an assistant in Indiana before joining the Nuggets last summer.
Denver wraps up the week by completing a back-to-back set on the road against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.
Here’s a quick look at each opponent:
After winning 13 of their first 15 games, the Blazers haven’t cooled off much since. They took a five-game winning streak into Monday’s game against the Houston Rockets and have won at least five in a row three times this season. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard are in line for All-Star invitations next month.
The Pacers boasted the NBA’s best record as they opened a five-game Western road trip Monday at Golden State. Indiana plays at Sacramento on Friday, which is notable because the Nuggets are 50-8 since 2009-10 when facing a team coming to Denver on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Kings started the week near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, but they have proven to be dangerous at home, beating Dallas, Houston, Miami, Phoenix and Portland this season. The Nuggets lost at Sleep Train Arena in the season-opener on Oct. 30.