This is a matchup of a pair of ascending teams in the Western conference.
Portland Trailblazers (-3) vs. Denver Nuggets
This is a matchup of a pair of ascending teams in the Western conference. Last year, the Denver Nuggets slipped from their 57-25 SU season of 2013 to 36-46 SU last year. With a projected win total of 42 games this season, a small bounce was expected from Denver. Portland enters as a team on the rise in NBA action. After going 33-49 SU in 2013, Portland logged a mark of 54-28 SU in 2014, tied with Houston for the 4th best record in the West. This year, Portland has started smartly at 13-4 SU. A look at the way in which each of these teams reached this point is most telling.
The Denver Nuggets had a terrible break from their gate. After 7 games, Denver was 1-6 SU with a defense that was allowing 117 PPG on 48% shooting. Since that time, Denver has gone 8-2 NBA odds SU, allowing just 101 PPG on only 43% shooting. In a mirror effort of that turnaround, key defender and offensive contributor, Aaron Afflalo, is averaging 18 points in the last 10 games compared to 10 PPG on 38% shooting in the 1-6 SU start. Last night, it appeared the Nuggets would be entering this game well-rested. Denver held a 62-43 halftime lead vs. the Jazz. In a shocking 2nd half turnaround, the Nuggets were forced to fully extend themselves, holding on for a 103-101 win in a game that was emotionally draining for the final 4 minutes. To their credit, the Nuggets posted 7 double digit scorers last night, ranging from 10 to 15 points.
Portland has made a straight line rise over the last 3 seasons. Though they stumbled from the gate at 1-2 SU this season, they have since gone 12-2 SU, covering 8 of those contests. Most impressive has been their work on the road which has seen them win their last 4 road games by 6 or more points, averaging 111 PPG in the process. One of Portland’s rare losses came on Friday night to Memphis, the top ranked team in the NBA. It was followed by a Sunday night bounce, a 107-93 victory against Minnesota, in which top players Aldrich, Lillard, Batum and Matthews combined for 76 points. There is little doubt this team is for real and will challenge for Western conference superiority the entire season.
The recent series history between these two, as well as the recent rest factor, is key to this selection. While Portland extended little energy in their home victory vs. Minnesotaon Sunday, the Nuggets, as outlined above, were extended to the limit last night at altitude. Now playing their 2nd night at altitude will not be an easy challenge. Recent history has all pointed to Portland success. Last year, Portland was a perfect 4-0 SU in this series, winning every game by 5 or more points. This year in early November, Denver and Portland played a home and home series. It was more Portland dominance. This time, the Blazers won 116-110 at home, then followed it up 3 nights later with a 130-113 victory on this court. Portland is one of the rare teams in the NBA who excels at either a fast or slow pace. For your NBA picks, either way the Nuggets want to play it, the results will add to the past history of this series.