Blazers Host Surging Nuggets In First Meeting Between NW Division Rivals

by Casey Holdahl
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After losing their last two games, both at the Moda Center, the Portland Trail Blazers (6-6) host the Denver Nuggets (8-5) Monday night in the first matchup this season between the Northwest Division rivals. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Trail Blazers enter Monday night’s game having lost their last two games, the most recent being a 101-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets Friday night at the Moda Center. Despite having more talent and playing at home, the Trail Blazers were thoroughly outplayed by the Nets team playing the fourth game of a five-game west coast road trip.

“Not a good loss,” said CJ McCollum, who finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting. “It’s a game we should have won. No offense to the Brooklyn Nets, but that’s a game we should have won.”

Despite looking listless and disjointed for most of the game, Portland still managed to hold a five-point lead with less than six minutes to play Friday night. But Nets guard D’Angelo Russell made sure the Trail Blazers would pay for their lackluster play, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter to lift Brooklyn to their fifth victory of the season.

“That was a game we shouldn’t have lost but certainly Brooklyn deserved to win,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They outplayed us after the first quarter but particularly in the third quarter, they played harder than we did. They got loose balls, they ran faster, and the last five minutes anything can happen. They deserved to win.”

The Nuggets enter Monday’s game on a much different note, having won their last three and five of their last six. The Nuggets’ last three wins versus the Nets, Thunder and Magic came by an average of 11.3 points, with all three of those games taking place during a six-game homestand at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

“I think they’re really playing good offensive basketball,” said Stotts of the Nuggets. “They’re passing is really good, they get up and down the court. Last few games their offense has been pretty impressive.”

Portland took the season series from Denver 3-1 last season thanks in part to point guard Damian Lillard averaging 32.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 2.25 steals. The 6-3 point guard out of Weber State has scored at least 30 points in four of his last six games against the Nuggets, though he is sat out Sunday’s practice with a minor injury to his left, non-shooting hand.

“I don’t see it being an issue. Obviously it’ll be sore,” said Lillard of the injury. “I’m sure once we tip the ball up and we start running around I’ll probably forget about it until after the game.”

Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard, who has been sidelined since October 25 with a right ankle sprain, is no longer on the injury list, leaving Al-Farouq Aminu (right ankle) as the only Portland unavailable Monday night. Nuggets guard Gary Harris is listed as questionable with right shoulder soreness.

Monday night’s game can be seen locally on NBC Sports Northwest with Kevin Calabro, Lamar Hurd and Brooke Olzendam. Brian Wheeler, calling his first game since a personal leave of absence, and Michael Holton will have the radio call on Rip City Radio 620 AM and on all of the stations of the Trail Blazers Radio Network.