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Nuggets Try to Stay Hot Against Trail Blazers

Denver on Four-Game Win Streak

The Portland Trail Blazers try for a second straight road win when they take on the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. The opening tip for this contest is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET at Ball Arena in Denver.

Portland won on the road for the first time this season on Friday night, topping the Houston Rockets, 104-92. The Trail Blazers are 6-7 and in third place in the Northwest Division, trailing the second-place Utah Jazz by two games and leading the Oklahoma City Thunder by percentage points.

Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic chat Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets-1
Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

The Nuggets have won four in a row, including a 105-96 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. Denver is 8-4 and atop the Northwest Division standings, leading the second-place Jazz by a half-game.

If you want to bet online on this contest, the NBA lines have the Nuggets as six-point favorites, with the over/under set at 213 points. Denver is listed at -250 on the moneyline, while the Trail Blazers are +210.

Playing Shorthanded

Guard Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 20 points in Friday night’s win, but he won’t be suiting up for this one due to lower abdominal pain. Lillard is averaging 20.0 points and 8.1 assists this season, but he’s shooting just 38.5% from the field and 31.3% from 3-point range.

With Lillard sidelined, the pressure will be on guard CJ McCollum to have a big game. McCollum is leading the Trail Blazers in scoring at 20.7 points per game, though he hasn’t broken the 20-point barrier over the last four games.

Center Jusuf Nurkic, who started his NBA career with the Nuggets, will be a key as well. His defense on Nikola Jokic will be important, as will his ability to make Jokic work on the defensive end. Nurkic is averaging 11.5 points and 11.5 rebounds this season, shooting a career-best 56.6% from the field.

Putting it Together

Jokic, the reigning NBA MVP, is coming off his second triple-double of the season, recording 22 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists in his return from a one-game suspension on Friday night. Jokic is putting up numbers similar to his MVP campaign, averaging 25.1 points, 14.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game, and his triple-double on Friday was the 59th of his career, tying him with Larry Bird for eighth all-time.

“He’s one of the greatest basketball players ever, so my name being next to his means a lot,” Jokic said after Friday’s win. “I’m just going to try to be the best that I can be, and I have a couple of years left.”

Forward Will Barton is second on the Nuggets in scoring at a career-high 16.4 points per game. Barton’s production has been needed with Jamal Murray still out with a knee injury and Michael Porter Jr. struggling with his shot. Porter is shooting just 20.8% from 3-point range this season, and he’ll miss this contest with a back injury.

Nuggets Keep Winning

Portland has the ability to put points on the board, but without Lillard in the lineup, the Denver defense can focus more on shutting down McCollum. The Nuggets are starting to find their groove, especially with Jokic playing well, and they should make it five in a row with an easy win in this one.

When doing your NBA betting, take Denver to win and cover at home.

Pick: Denver Nuggets -6

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