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News » Nuggets-Trail Blazers Preview 2009-10-29

Nuggets-Trail Blazers Preview 2009-10-29

Nuggets-Trail Blazers Preview 2009-10-29The Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets took the Northwest Division title race down to the final week of the regular season and both are expecting another tight battle in 2009-10.

Coming off season-opening victories, Portland and Denver meet for the first time in the new campaign Thursday night at the Rose Garden.

The Nuggets and Trail Blazers each finished with 54 wins last season, although Denver clinched the Northwest title in the final week after finishing with a better record against division opponents.

However, Portland closed last season with a 104-76 victory over the Nuggets on April 15 to earn a split of the four meetings with each club winning twice at home.

They'll resume their rivalry after successful season debuts. The Blazers recorded a 96-87 victory over Houston on Tuesday as Travis Outlaw had a team-high 23 points while Greg Oden scored only two, but had 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.

"You definitely want a lot more points," Oden said. "But I think I did a lot of good things that don't show up on the scoreboard or in the stats."

Oden, who missed his first season in 2007-08 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee, averaged 8.9 points and 7.0 rebounds in 61 games with 39 starts last season. He came off the bench during the playoffs, but is expected to be a key part of coach Nate McMillan's focus on defense this season.

Portland had the fourth-best scoring defense in the NBA in 2008-09 at 94.1 points per game.

McMillan, though, had to be happy Tuesday. The Blazers held the Rockets to 37.0 percent shooting and outrebounded them 51-33. Portland also took a 13-point lead into the second half after holding Houston to 18 second-quarter points.

"That's the commitment, getting involved in the game on the defensive end of the floor, not the offensive end of the floor. Offensive players want to see that ball go in the basket before they get into the game," McMillan said. "We want to change that thought process this year and get into the game on the defensive end of the floor. I thought our guys did that."

Denver, meanwhile, is coming off a 114-105 victory over Utah on Wednesday. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 30 points and rookie Ty Lawson added 17 with seven coming in a key fourth-quarter run.

Lawson, the 18th overall pick in this year's draft from North Carolina, was 7 of 13 from the floor and had six assists and four rebounds off the bench, igniting a 9-0 run to open the fourth quarter and give the Nuggets a 91-80 lead.

"There's such a speed to the game when Ty's on the court," coach George Karl said. "Right now, I'm just going to ride guys that are going."

After beating one of the other expected division contenders at home, the Nuggets hope a weather system that had dumped a foot of snow in the area would let up enough for them to take off without much delay.

The Nuggets realize the importance of these early matchups against division foes.

"It's a tough way to start off - two division games, back-to-back games," Chauncey Billups told the team's official Web site. "We've got to hit the ground running. Even though it's not do or die this early in the season, they are big games."

Denver has lost four of its last five visits to the Rose Garden, where the Blazers had the NBA's fourth-best home record at 34-7. Anthony missed one of the games in Portland and was held to 12 points in the other last season.

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Added: October 29, 2009


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