Preview: Denver Nuggets hope to remain undefeated in NBA 2K Game of the Week series, host Portland Trail Blazers

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets (2-0) are aiming for three-straight victories when the Trail Blazers visit them on the virtual hardwood in the NBA 2K Game of the Week series.

Denver has proven to be quite the resilient team in their first two outings, rallying against both the Lakers and the Jazz to secure a combined margin of victory of five points. Portland has struggled to meet expectations with a 29-37 record before the NBA COVID-19 hiatus and had lost three-straight to Denver. However, the video game version of the team could prove to be a tough challenge – especially with the likes of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony on the roster.

Projected starters (with 2K overall rating):

Nuggets (82 overall): Jamal Murray (84), Gary Harris (76), Will Barton III (80), Paul Millsap (82) and Nikola Jokić (91)

Trail Blazers (82 overall): Damian Lillard (94), C.J. McCollum (85), Trevor Ariza (75), Carmelo Anthony (77), Hassan Whiteside (87)

TUNE IN: 9 p.m. MT on Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube

Here’s what to look forward in Thursday’s contest:

Who is slowing down DAME D.O.L.L.A?

The Trail Blazers might be sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference, but that isn’t down to the production of Lillard. The team’s lead guard has balling at an MVP level this season, averaging 28.9 points a game to go along with 7.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds.

The 29-year-old’s improvement from downtown, where he’s jumped from hitting at 36.9 percent rate to 39.4, is a significant reason why he’s having arguably the best season of a star-studded career so far. If there is one position that has the edge in NBA 2K, it’s the point guard. Denver will have to ensure it exhausts Lillard on the defensive end if it wants to secure a victory. Fortunately, the team has a great tandem at point guard in Jamal Murray and Monte Morris, who has been balling throughout the NBA 2K Game of the Week series.

Can the Joker get past Agent Block?

Nikola Jokić came alive in the second half against Utah last week and the Nuggets will be looking for more of the same from their All-NBA center against Portland. That may be easier said than done as he goes up against Hassan Whiteside, who is currently averaging a league-leading 3.1 blocks a game this season.

Prior to the hiatus, Jokić had success against the Blazers as he averaged 23 points against the Nuggets’ Northwest Division rivals. The Serbian has used three-point shooting as a way to neutralize Whiteside’s defensive prowess on the block. In the three contests between Denver and Portland this season, Jokić attempted 15 threes and knocked down eight of them. He’ll likely turn to that again on Thursday.

Defense, defense, defense

Outside of Whiteside and Trevor Ariza, there aren’t many standout defenders on the Trail Blazers’ roster – an area that could play into the Nuggets’ favor.

During the regular season, Portland was 27th in the league in defensive rating at 113.6 and was giving up 115.2 points (26th) to opponents. More concerning, the team struggled to defend the three-point shot, allowing opposing teams to shoot 37.7 percent from downtown (27th). Although Denver is in the bottom third when it comes to made threes at 10.9 per game (25th), it has shown it can rise to the occasion when needed. Who can forget the team’s 22 threes against the Bucks in a win on Jan. 31?

If the Nuggets can get going in that area, this should be relatively straightforward for the home team.

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