The Scouting Report: Denver Nuggets

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Projected starting line-up: Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov

The Denver Nuggets are a completely different team from the one that hit rock bottom a few weeks ago. The Trail Blazers were two points shy of a franchise record for points in a half and they won 130-113.

The Nuggets are a very different team. Rookie Gary Harris is getting big minutes and closing out games. Arron Afflalo looks like Orlando Magic Arron Afflalo and Danilo Gallinari is starting to look like himself again.

The Nuggets are now 9-8 and 8-2 in their last 10 games since the debacle against Portland.

ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz exposed the Nuggets front office struggles as Denver was one of the league’s biggest disappointments in the early season. Then the Nuggets beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland, probably their best win so far this year.

Amidst the added scrutiny, the Nuggets have flourished since that fateful night in Denver. The Blazers didn’t have Nicolas Batum in the previous match-up but will have him back tonight. He still hasn’t found his 3-point shot.

Former Blazer JJ Hickson has found his way back into the rotation off the Nuggets bench. In their win against Utah last night, he scored 10 points and had seven assists.

Darrell Arthur is shooting at a 3-point volume never-before-seen in his career and he’s helping bring spacing as the team’s most consistent big man off the bench.

They held on last night after a dominating first half. The Jazz brought the fight right back to them but they were able to survive to get above .500. They still play at one of the highest paces in the league and the Blazers will have to be ready to run.

The Nuggets also look a little bit better with their running. It seems that there is more of a method to their madness and part of that could be that they are just shooting the ball better from the perimeter.

The Blazers weakside defense will also need to be much better than it has been in previous games against an aggressive offensive rebounding team. Faried, Hickson and Mozgov can all attack the glass to clean up Denver’s misses. It’s a strength of Denver’s and the Blazers won’t be able to fully take it out of the arsenal. But keeping them off the glass to limit extra opportunities will be key against a team that puts up a lot of 3’s. The Nuggets are currently sixth in the league in 3-point attempts.

It looks like Brian Shaw and the Nuggets have figured something out since the start of the year.

But the Blazers have been the class of the division so far and one of the best teams in the conference. A win for the Nuggets to avenge the embarrassment of Nov. 13 could put their season into a  new light.  It was early enough for them to redeem themselves and they have so far.

The Blazers are aware of the potential for a revenge game. But a win would do wonders for Denver and add another layer on to their confidence by beating a quality team. A playoff spot isn’t completely out of the question with their recent run, but it’s still unlikely. Oklahoma City is now at full strength with the return of Kevin Durant, making task of sneaking in even tougher.

But they’ve give themselves a chance and are back to respectability, which was unthinkable some three weeks ago.


Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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