NBA Game of the Week for the Week of January 30-February 5
The Northwest Division is shaping up to be the toughest division in the NBA this season. Four of the five teams in the division are in the top eight of the Western Conference. Two of those teams--the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers--will meet in this week's NBA Game of the Week.
On Saturday, February 4, the Nuggets will visit Portland and try to tie the season series between the teams at one game apiece. The Trail Blazers defeated Denver 111-102 in the first meeting between the teams back on December 29.
This week's matchup will be the 24th game of the season for both teams and they will both be playing their fourth game of the week. The Nuggets will be playing the third game of their only back-to-back-to-back of the season and the Trail Blazers will be playing their third game in four nights.
Since these Northwest Division rivals will play each other just three times this season, Portland will have an opportunity to clinch the season series with a win.
(All statistics and records are through January 29)
Saturday, February 4, Denver Nuggets (14-6) at Portland Trail Blazers (12-8), 10:00 p.m. ET on NBA TV
Both teams were playing their third game of the season when Portland handed Denver its first loss back on December 29. In that meeting, the Trail Blazers used solid defense and excellent shooting to overcome their sloppy ball handling.
Portland was able to overcome 25 turnovers by holding the Nuggets to 40.2 percent shooting from the field and a horrible 4-for-20 (20 percent) from beyond the three-point arc. The Trail Blazers also blocked nine shots and grabbed 20 more rebounds than Denver did.
Except for the turnovers, Portland was pretty solid offensively. The Trail Blazers shot 51.9 percent from the floor, hit 40 percent of their threes and made 21 of 23 (91.3 percent) of their free-throws. All of these percentages are much higher than Portland's season averages of 43.5 percent, 31.1 percent and 78.2 percent respectively.
If Portland wants to clinch the season series and gain a full game on the Denver Nuggets in the Northwest Division standings, they must take better care of the basketball. Only a miraculous shooting display saved the Trail Blazers on a night that they committed 25 miscues. It is unlikely that Portland will be able to shoot that well in all three of those categories on the same night again.
If the Nuggets want to tie the season series with the Trail Blazers at 1-1, they will have to do a much better job of competing on the glass. Getting pounded on the glass by 20 rebounds is a recipe for disaster no matter how many turnovers you force.
The Nuggets play at the NBA's fastest pace and have the league's most efficient offense. Denver will try to force Portland into as many turnovers as possible so that they can get out on the break and score as many easy points as they can as quickly as they can.
But since both teams will be playing their fourth game of the week and their third game in four nights, it is likely that both the Nuggets and Trail Blazers will go into the game of the week with heavy legs. The team that fights through the fatigue and finds a way to play with energy and effort on every play will give themselves a chance to close the week with a victory.
Mark is a lifelong fan of the NBA who has loved the game of basketball ever since his first trip to an NBA arena. Mark has watched more basketball games than anyone can count and has more than 100 articles about the NBA published on the internet. Mark also shares his random NBA musings and game-by-game predictions on RandomNBAFan.com.
Information from ESPN.com's NBA Schedule, NBA Regular Season Divisional Standings, Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers--Recap--December 29, 2011, Portland Trail Blazers 2012 Statistics and Hollinger's NBA Team Stats was used for this article.