Battle of Western Conference heavyweights in the Rose City on Sunday as the Portland Trailblazers host the Denver Nuggets at the Moda Center. Both teams in excellent form at the moment–Denver is in second place in the West 2 games back of Golden State and 1.5 games ahead of the third place Houston Rockets. Portland is in 4th place with Houston 1.5 games up and the red hot Utah Jazz (won 7 straight and 9 of 10) in the rear view mirror 1 game back. After this game, Portland plays the Lakers at the Staples Center on Tuesday before concluding the season on Wednesday at home against Sacramento. Denver goes from the proverbial ‘frying pan into the fire’ as they travel from Portland for a game in Salt Lake City against the aforementioned Utah Jazz on Tuesday. They close out the regular season at home on Wednesday against Minnesota.
Looking at Denver’s recent ‘report card’ they’re 11-5 SU in their last 16 games but haven’t been anywhere near as good against the spread going 6-10 versus the number. They’re in the second game of a home/home series with the Blazers after winning/covering the first game Friday night in Denver. For a team with Western Conference Championship aspirations the Nuggets have been abysmal on the road. They’re just one game over .500 SU (20-19) going 16-23 ATS away from home. To be fair, that’s far from the worst road record among playoff teams in either conference and to some extent they compensate by being so tough at home (33-7–the best home record in the NBA as of this writing). That’s not going to help them here in ‘Rip City’ against a Blazers team with a formidable home court presence in their own right. Portland is 30-9 SU/23-16 ATS at the Moda Center and have been very strong coming off a SU loss this year going 19-9 SU/16-12 ATS.
Portland does get some good news as CJ McCollum has been upgraded to ‘probable’ for this game. He’s been out since mid-March with a popliteus strain in his left knee. Reserve guard Seth Curry also upgraded to ‘probable’ after missing Friday’s game at Denver with left tibia soreness. Denver is giving some serious signs that they’re cool with a loss in this game–center Nikola Jokic, forward Paul Millsap and guard Jamal Murray are all listed as ‘Out’ with ‘rest’ given as the reason.
Ultimately, the game is a bigger priority for Portland than Denver. Nuggets have already won three meetings against the Blazers this season going 2-1 ATS and appear to be prioritizing the upcoming game in SLC against the Jazz. Ironically, Denver will be their best friends in that game as a Nuggets win could put the kibosh on the Jazz catching Portland under any circumstances. Handicapping 101 dictates taking the team that lost the first game in these ‘quick revenge’ matchups and there’s plenty of other reasons to like the Blazers here.