Trail Blazers-Nuggets Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers’ recent surge already includes a win over the Denver Nuggets, and LaMarcus Aldridge has them aiming for another.
Aldridge will try to keep the Trail Blazers rolling as they go for their longest winning streak over the struggling Nuggets in 16 years on Wednesday night.
Portland (5-3) has won four of five games while averaging 105.8 points and shooting 46.6 percent from the floor. However, each of those wins have come at home, including Tuesday’s 102-100 victory over Charlotte as Aldridge scored 25 points and pulled down a season-high 14 rebounds.
That came two days after Aldridge put up a season-high 28 points with nine boards and four assists while the Trail Blazers hit 16 of 31 from 3-point range in a 116-100 win over Denver (1-5), which has been idle after losing its fifth straight game.
Extending the Nuggets’ slide would give the Trail Blazers a six-game winning streak in the all-time series – their longest since they won 10 in a row from 1996-98.
Aldridge has been key to the recent run, averaging 28.3 points in four meetings. However, a left groin strain sidelined him for the most recent visit to Denver on Feb. 25, when Portland won 100-95 behind Damian Lillard’s 31 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Lillard is averaging 26.3 points while sinking 11 of 25 3s over his last three visits to Denver, and he enters this one coming off his best effort of the season. He connected on 12 of 21 from the floor – 5 of 8 from behind the arc – to finish with 29 points and seven assists against the Hornets.
”It just felt like a game we could turn around,” said Lillard, who was held to 11 points in Sunday’s win. ”It was just a matter of us understanding that, `Hey, if we stick with it, things will come around.”’
Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, who sat out Tuesday’s win with a bruised right knee, will miss at least this game and Saturday’s contest versus Brooklyn.
Despite having the losing streak continue, Denver coach Brian Shaw was encouraged as his team topped 100 points for the fourth straight game.
"I did feel better about this game," Shaw said. "There’s no moral victories but I did feel better with the rotation, with the effort that our guys gave. So we just have to keep chipping away to try and stop the bleeding."
Another strong effort from Kenneth Faried should help, but he’s managed just 11.2 points per game in five career home games versus Portland. The forward was much better Sunday, scoring 19 points with three blocks after averaging 7.3 points in the first four games of this slide.
Faried also got involved physically against the Blazers, appearing to shove guard Steve Blake, who turned around and pushed Faried to the ground. Players from both teams jumped in to separate the two, and Blake was given a flagrant foul after a review.
"I’m playing offense and making sure my point guard got open," Faried said. "He (Blake) ran into the back pick and he got mad about it and pushed me. Yeah, I fell down to make sure the ref saw it."