Tonight the Denver Nuggets play the Portland Trailblazers at the Rose Garden in a matchup of Northwest Division rivals. This is the first of four scheduled meetings between these teams this season.
Last season, Denver went 3-1 against the Trailblazers, and Portland has not won a season series against the Nuggets since the 1998-99 campaign. But the Nuggets have lost their last three road games so perhaps the Blaze can capitalize on their home-court advantage.
Three big stories surround this game – one immediately relevant to this evening’s contest and two Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” influences hovering in the background.
Top Blazer and three-time All-Star Brandon Roy will be out with a bum left knee. He is Portland’s best defender and will be especially missed against Denver’s high-powered offense, which at 105.8 ppg ranks fourth in the NBA.
In other injury-related news, the Blazers announced yesterday that Greg Oden, the former No. 1 draft pick whose short career has been marred by injuries, will have microfracture surgery on his left knee and will not play this season. Though this will not squarely impact the game tonight, it’s definitely a blow to the team’s morale and adds to the Blazers’ big picture concerns. They were hoping Oden would return this season to help them down low and finally start living up to his draft expectations.
Meanwhile the Nuggets are contending with their own big-pic matters as rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s impending departure from the squad continue to loom. A Nugget for all of his eight years in the NBA and Denver’s top player for arguably that whole time, Melo continues to be badgered by media and fans as to his future plans and the growing possibility that his tenure as a Nugget is coming to an end.
Anthony refused to sign a 3-year $65million extension with Denver earlier this season. However, Melo has been a monster on the boards of late, with a total of 44 rebounds in the last 3 games – an average of almost 15 per clip. This fact should especially concern Portland because they have been one of the league’s worst teams on the glass this year and currently rank 27th in rebounding.
Both teams are coming off of Tuesday night victories – Portland over Memphis on the road and Denver over New York at home. I’ll join Marv Albert and Steve Kerr on the sidelines when Nuggets at Blazers tips off at 10:30 PM PST on TNT.