Northwest Division rival Portland next up for Denver Nuggets

Trail Blazers still soaring after hot start to 2013-14
by Aaron Lopez

After the Denver Nuggets surrendered 116-plus points in four straight games, point guard Ty Lawson would have understood if coach Brian Shaw put the team through defensive-slide drills common at youth basketball camps.

Shaw didn’t go that far, but he certainly emphasized defense during two days of practice leading into Thursday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

“We didn’t go far back to the basics, but we went back to training camp and got our rotations right,” Lawson said. “It’s been all defense.”

Rightfully so.

The Nuggets (20-20) have given up an average of 117 points over the past four games, and their efforts on the practice court will be put to the test against the Blazers, who lead the NBA in scoring (109.3 ppg) and rank second in 3-point field-goal percentage (.395).

“This team we’re playing in Portland is a headache,” Shaw said. “It’s a good test for us. We’ll have a chance to see if the work we put in the last couple of days will pay off.”

Denver has been hindered by the absence of Darrell Arthur, who will miss his fifth straight game with a strained hip. Arthur is an excellent defender who can disrupt the pick-and-roll and hold his own in the post.

“He’s probably our best defensive player,” Shaw said. “A lot of times at the end of the games, he’s been in because of his ability to be able to defend, not to mention his ability to knock down shots.”

Forward Wilson Chandler, another versatile defender, sat out the past two days of practice as a precaution but is expected to play against Portland.

“We’re just being real conservative with him based on his past (injury) history,” Shaw said.

This will be the second meeting between the Nuggets and Blazers (31-11). Portland built a 26-point lead and cruised to a 113-98 victory at Pepsi Center on Nov. 1.

The game was a sign of things to come from the Blazers, who won 13 of their first 15 games and are currently third in the Western Conference standings.


WHEN: 8:30 p.m. MT
WHERE: Moda Center, Portland.
TV; RADIO: TNT; 104.3 FM, AM-950

DENVER (20-20)

F Wilson Chandler
F Kenneth Faried
C J.J. Hickson
G Randy Foye
G Ty Lawson

PORTLAND (31-11)
F Nicolas Batum
F LaMarcus Aldridge
C Robin Lopez
G Wesley Matthews
G Damian Lillard

Darrell Arthur (hip strain), Danilo Gallinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (stress fracture, left tibia) are out.
PORTLAND: None to report.

Seven of the last nine games between Portland and Denver have been decided by less than 10 points . . . Denver has fared reasonably well in Portland in recent years, having gone 10-12 at Moda Center (formerly the Rose Garden) since the 2002-03 season . . . Denver is an impressive 27-13 (.675) overall against the Trail Blazers since 2003-04, with nine of the Blazers’ 12 wins coming in the past four seasons . . . The Nuggets have won the season series against Portland in seven of the last 11 years . . . Denver and Portland both registered 50+ wins in 2010-11. Prior to that year, the last time both teams finished with 50+ wins during the same season had been 1987-88 (Denver 54 and Portland 53).