DenverNuggets at Portland Trail Blazers Preview
The Denver Nuggets begin their 2019-20 campaign tonight against the same team they ended 2018-19 against, the Portland Trail Blazers.
After losing to the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference semifinals, the Nuggets have a bad taste in their mouth and an opening night win in Portland on National TV would go a long way to getting past that.
“What better way to start it off,” Denver coach Michael Malone told the Denver Post. “National TV, a great atmosphere and a team that has left a bad taste in our mouth most of the summer.”
Time: 10 PM ET
Arena: Moda Center, Portland, OR
Nuggets: Bol Bol (O)
Trail Blazers: Pau Gasol and Jusuf Nurkic (O)
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
This Nuggets team knows each other well. Chemistry will be their strong suit as they return a majority of last year’s roster.
They’ll also be in a position to compete in a tougher Western Conference after adding versatile forward Jerami Grant, who comes over from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Nuggets return their solid tandem in point guard Jamal Murray and center Nikola Jokic. While Murray started the playoffs off struggling, he had a breakout in the series against the Spurs and Trail Blazers.
Whereas last season, where the Nuggets surprised many as they were jostling with the Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the West, guard Monte Morris says they won’t have that surprise factor this season.
“We can’t sneak up on nobody anymore,” Morris said. “They’re circling us on the calendar now. We just gotta be ready to go every time because we’re solidified now as far as the top teams in the West.”
Portland Trail Blazers Starting Lineup
While Portland retained key players in Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, who is still recovering from injury, they also added several new pieces.
Most notable was that they shored up their frontcourt with the additions of Hassan Whiteside, Skal Labissiere and Anthony Tolliver.
“We have four or five 7-footers, so we have guys who can protect the rim,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said.
Another key addition was acquiring forward Kent Bazemore, who the Trail Blazers will look to for perimeter defense.
It will likely take some time for Portland to get everyone on the same page, but Lillard and McCollum will keep them going early as they start fitting in these new pieces.
Key Player Matchups
Damian Lillard vs. Jamal Murray
Aside from dropping diss tracks this offseason and working on arena music for the team, Lillard has been working hard on getting stronger and the returns seem to speak for themselves. Murray just signed a max extension and will be looking to prove himself against a familiar foe tonight.
Hassan Whiteside vs. Nikola Jokic
Jokic is such a tough cover for most traditional centers because he’s capable of sitting outside and hitting threes and he can be very dominant down low. Whiteside is most effective defending in the paint. Terry Stotts will likely also be looking to spell Whiteside with Skal, who Lillard called the MVP of training camp/preseason.
CJ McCollum vs. Gary Harris
Two sharp-shooting guards who can put up big numbers will make for a fun matchup. Harris was inconsistent coming back from injury last season, but after an offseason and training camp without health issues, it’ll be interesting to see which version of Harris Denver gets tonight.
Nikola Jokic is the stud pick for Denver. At $10.9k on FanDuel, Jokic is a fantasy beast. Count on him for points, rebounds, assists, a block here and there and his percentages are usually solid. For a value pick, I’m liking the versatile Grant at $5.1k. While he may not be the most prolific scorer, I think he’s a fantasy sleeper coming off a career year.
For Portland, you can’t go wrong with Lillard at $9.5k. The way he went off in the playoffs for some extremely high scoring nights showed exactly what he is capable of. A stronger Lillard will also be difficult to defend on those drives into the paint. There are several value plays available, including Rodney Hood and Bazemore, but I will be a buyer in the Skal hype. It’s a low risk at $3.5k with the potential for a high reward if what is being said in Portland is true.
Bet on Matchup
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