Preview: Denver Nuggets open homestand against Trail Blazers

Social & Digital Content Manager

The up-and-down, rollercoaster nature of the 2021-22 season took another dive Tuesday night as the Denver Nuggets fell 87-85 in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

Despite allowing just 28 points in the first half and building a 25-point lead in the third quarter, Denver’s offense couldn’t find a rhythm down the stretch to avoid the loss. The Nuggets’ search for consistency will continue in the comfort of Ball Arena for the next 10 days, as Denver (20-19) kicks off a six-game homestand Thursday night.

The first opponent the Mile High squad will welcome to town? The familiar Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland (16-24) has struggled as of late due to several key injuries to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, among others. Struggles on the defensive end (29th in defensive rating) have held the Trail Blazers back, despite owning a top-10 offensive unit.

The two teams have split the first two meetings this season, both of which took place in November.

TUNE-IN: 8 p.m. MT, TNT, 92.5FM

Control the boards

One area Denver did thrive in Tuesday night was on the glass. The Nuggets nearly doubled up the Clippers on the boards (56-31), which included a 13-2 edge on the offensive glass.

A repeat performance will be necessary against a very good rebounding team in the Trail Blazers. Portland ranks 13th in offensive rebound percentage and fourth in opponent offensive rebound percentage (i.e., the Trail Blazers don’t give up many second-chance opportunities).

Denver has been dominant on the defensive glass (second in opponent in offensive rebound percentage) but still ranks near the bottom of the league (24th) in its own offensive rebound percentage.

Defending beyond the arc

Portland’s offense certainly prioritizes a “modern” shot chart, with the majority of shot attempts coming at the rim or from downtown.

Although the Trail Blazers have struggled to convert at the basket (just 59.5 percent, 29th in the league), they have thrived from deep, having converted 36.9 percent of their attempts, good for seventh in the league. Even without Lillard and McCollum, Portland continues to emphasize 3-point attempts and has actually converted at an even higher clip in 2022 at 43.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Denver’s defense will have its work cut out for it Thursday against a Trail Blazers offense that is capable of catching fire from deep on any night.

Iron out the kinks on offense

Tuesday’s game against the Clippers was one the Nuggets will want to forget, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. Denver could only muster 85 points and was held back by cold 3-point shooting (4-of-33) and turnovers (20).

Against a struggling Portland defense, the Nuggets must work out the issues on that end of the floor. The Trail Blazers rank in the bottom five in opponent turnover percentage and 30th in opponent 3-point percentage (37.7 percent).

Thursday’s matchup presents a compelling opportunity for Denver to get back on track on the offensive end of the floor.