Portland Trailblazers vs. Denver Nuggets Preview and Pick

Portland Trailblazers +3.5 (17-10) at Denver Nuggets -3.5 (17-10) O/U 202 9 PM ET Monday December 22, 2008
By Jason Green at Predictem.com

Tonight in a match up of two of the more surprising teams in the NBA this season the Portland Trailblazers travel to Mile High City to play the Denver Nuggets. Many thought that these teams would battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but not many thought that they would be a legit force to deal with, which is what they both now are. These 2 teams are led by a couple of guys that should get serious MVP consideration for what they have meant to their teams, in the Blazers’ Brandon Roy and the Nuggets’ Chauncey Billups.. Denver is in a bit of a slide, as they have dropped 3 straight, while the Blazers have won 2 in a row.

This season the Nuggets are 9-4 at home and the Blazers are 8-8 on the road. These teams are both in 1st place in the Northwest Division and the winner of tonight’s game will be alone atop the division.

NBA Sportsbooks have the Nuggets as 3.5 point favorites with a total around 202. The Nuggets are posted at -165 as home favorites and the Blazers are posted at +145 as away dogs.

The Nuggets come into this game after losing to the Phoenix Suns 108-101 on Saturday night. The high scorer for the Nuggets in that game was J.R. Smith coming off the bench for 23 points on 9/16 shooting. For the game the Nuggets shot 37/80 from the floor for a FG% of 46.3%. On defense the Nuggets allowed the Suns to shoot 38/77 from the floor for a FG% of 49.4%.

The Blazers come into this game after beating the Phoenix Suns last Thursday night 124-119. The high scorer in that game was Brandon Roy, who exploded for 52 points on 14/27 shooting, 5/7 from beyond the 3 point line, and 19/21 from the charity stripe. For the game the Blazers shot 55/87 from the floor for a FG% of 51.7%. On defense the Blazers allowed the Suns to shoot 41/72 for a FG% of 56.9%.

The Nuggets can light up the scoreboard, as they rank 5th in the NBA in scoring (102.7 ppg) and the Blazers rank 14th (99.6%). On defense the Blazers rank 10 in points allowed (95.4 ppg) and the Nuggets rank 17th (98.8 ppg). Portland has a rebounding differential of +5.7 rpg, while Denver is at -0.9 rpg.

On the injury front SG Brandon Roy is day-to-day for the Blazers and SF Carmelo Anthony and PF Kenyon Martin are day-to-day for the Nuggets.

This season the Nuggets are 15-11-1 ATS and the Blazers are 13-14. In terms of Over/Under games this season the Nuggets are 19-16 and the Blazers are 13-17.

For the Nuggets to win this game they will have to contain Roy, which will not be easy, as he has been on fire lately averaging 36.4 points in his last 5 games. The fans at the Rose Garden chanted “MVP” in the Phoenix game when he dropped 52 on the Suns.

Billups and Melo have been struggling to find their stroke, as in the Nuggets 3 games losing streak Billups is only averaging 14 ppg on 36.8% shooting and Melo is only averaging 15 ppg on 34.8% shooting. These guys need to get back on track tonight if the Nuggets hope to avoid their first 4 game losing streak since February of last year.

The key match up in this game may be between Nene and Greg Oden. Oden (8 ppg) can prove he is a legit defensive stopper by containing Nene (13.9 ppg), who is leading the NBA in FG%.

If the Nuggets continue to struggle with their outside shot it will put that much more pressure on Nene and Kenyon Martin to get some buckets down low. If Melo and Billups can find their stroke it will open up the inside for these guys to score some points.

LeMarcus Aldridge (16.7 ppg) has to take some of the scoring load off Roy and if he does not the Nuggets will win this game since the Blazers do not have a lot of scoring options.

The main key to this game is the shooting of the Nuggets, as if Melo and Billups are not filling it up they can be beat, which has been shown in their losing streak.

The Blazers can take over 1st place in the Northwest Division and other teams will take notice that they are not just a young team, but a legit contender as well. Roy will probably not get MVP with guys like King James, Kobe, and Wade having great years, but if he keeps playing like he is he deserves to be put in the same category as those studs.

Jason’s Pick: Late Breaking News! Carmelo Anthony is OUT tonight. Take the Blazers plus the points.