Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets Pick & Prediction MARCH 23rd 2024

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The surging Denver Nuggets will continue their pursuit of the Western Conference lead when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

The Nuggets (49-21) have won 13 of their past 15 games and stand a half-game behind the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder.

The reigning champions appear to be in top gear for the final few weeks of the season while the Trail Blazers (19-51) have the second-worst record in the West. Portland has lost five straight games and nine of its past 11.

The Nuggets will look to complete a four-game season sweep of the Trail Blazers and post their seventh consecutive victory in the series.

Denver’s top two players are both ailing and listed as questionable for Saturday’s game.

Two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic is dealing with back and hip pain. Standout shooter Jamal Murray sprained his left ankle with just under a minute left during Thursday’s 113-100 home victory over the New York Knicks.

Jokic had 30 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists against New York for his 22nd triple-double of the season. Murray had 23 points.

With so much at stake, Denver coach Michael Malone is hopeful of not being without either player.

“We’re playing at a high level,” Malone said. “The challenge is with 12 (games) to go can we continue to keep this up and stay healthy while doing so? Our players deserve so much credit for their mindset and approach every single night.”

Michael Porter Jr. had a huge game against the Knicks, scoring 31 points on 13-of-16 shooting from the field. Porter made three 3-pointers to set a franchise single-season record with 193, surpassing Dale Ellis (192 in 1996-97). He has three of the Nuggets’ top seven marks in that category.

“Even when he is not hot, it seems like he is going to make every shot,” Denver guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “For him to continue to shoot with that confidence is great for him.”

Portland will try to slow Porter one night after having no answers on how to cool down the Clippers’ Paul George or Kawhi Leonard.

George scored 31 points on 10-of-14 shooting and Leonard added 22 points while making 9 of 15 attempts as Los Angeles registered a 125-117 victory over the host Trail Blazers on Friday. Neither player stepped on the floor in the fourth quarter on a night in which Los Angeles shot 57.1 percent from the field.

Though the Trail Blazers were down by as many as 22 points in the first half, 26 for the game and 20 with under five minutes to play before narrowing the gap, coach Chauncey Billups said he was pleased with the way his squad played.

“Their shotmaking was incredible,” Billups said of the Clippers. “I don’t think we were playing poorly at all. We played against a team that has a lot more years’ experience. We were starting four rookies and (Anfernee Simons).”

Simons departed with 7:05 left in the third quarter with a left knee injury and didn’t return. Billups didn’t have a post-game update for Simons’ chances of playing Saturday.

Simons had just three points of 1-of-6 shooting before exiting.

Big man Deandre Ayton (elbow) sat out for the Trail Blazers and Jerami Grant (hamstring) was sidelined for the eighth time in the past nine games.

Rookies Scoot Henderson (24 points, 10 assists) and Kris Murray (career-high 21 points) had good performances against Los Angeles.

“I was really proud of Kris with back-to-back career highs, and I thought it was a good bounce-back game for Scoot and for him to be aggressive and attacking the entire time,” Billups said. “Those guys really stood out.”

–Field Level Media

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