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Preseason game No. 6 | Denver Nuggets (2-3) at Portland Trailblazers (3-1)
Moda Center, Portland, Oregon | 7:00 PM MST | TV: NBA TV
Coming off a last-second loss against the Golden State Warriors on Friday, the Nuggets look to regain composure against the Trailblazers in Portland. Since tonight’s game is actually televised, here are some things to keep your eye on:
Another day in the West, another backcourt test
After going toe-to-toe with one of the league’s highest-touted backcourts, the Nuggets guards face yet another big test in the dynamic scoring duo Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Tonight’s matchup will be a great opportunity to see how the team responds to head coach Michael Malone’s cries for defense after Friday’s loss.
Lillard is currently the third highest scorer so far during the NBA preseason with 20.8 points per game on a scorching 50 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three.
McCollum on the other hand has struggled. He’s shot an underwhelming 33.3 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three, but recently found his groove last game where he looked like his old self scoring 20 points on 8-17 shooting.
Stopping this two-headed monster will be Denver’s biggest priority as they attempt to cut the head off the snake, and will speak volumes about the Nugget’s ability to stop skilled scorers.
Twin towers versus small ball
“It definitely is a herd mentality type of league,” Malone said about the infestation of small ball running rampant throughout the league. Expect him to stick with size against the spread out Trailblazers after finding success with it against the Warriors’ infamous “Death Lineup”.
The Nuggets dominated the battle on the boards, out-rebounding the Warriors 60-52 but more importantly winning 17-11 on the offensive glass. The extra possessions allowed the Nuggets to attempt 10 more shots than Golden State and kept them in the game despite the Warriors shooting 17-42 from three.
It will be interesting to see if the giant Nuggets lineup can continue to have success against the in vogue smaller, perimeter-oriented lineups, and what that success would spell for the regular season starters situation.
Ushering in the new era
Emmanuel Mudiay is sidelined with a minor ankle injury meaning Jamal Murray has an opportunity to continue impressing as a floor general. Billed as a scorer coming into the draft, Murray was adamant that point guard was his natural position and that he only played that role at Kentucky because it was what they needed.
He’s been backing up that talk so far in preseason as his uncanny ability to score has been complimented by his genuinely impressive knack for leading a team. He not only knows how to get his own shots, but also how to set up the team offense without letting the ball stick to his hands for too long. Despite being green behind the ears, Murray is already shaping up to be a better option as the second-string point guard than Jameer Nelson.
He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight as he matches up against not only one of the league’s top guards, but one of the NBA’s marquee players in Lillard. Known as a minus defender, tonight will be a good chance to see either how far Murray’s defense has come or just how much they can afford to play him extended minutes against top-tier talent.