The Portland Trail Blazers will start their six-game road trip on Thursday at Pepsi Center against the Denver Nuggets. The Blazers are coming off an impressive win over the Brooklyn Nets, while the Nuggets blew a 25-point lead in their loss to the LA Clippers last Tuesday.
The Blazers won their second game in a row on Tuesday when they surprised the visiting Nets. Anfernee Simons led the team to a 114-108 win with 23 points, six rebounds and 11 assists. Portland played without two of their best players in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets suffered a tough defeat at the hands of the Clippers. They were up by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, but squandered the lead to lose 87-85. Nikola Jokic almost had a triple-double with 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
Portland Trail Blazers Injury Report
The Portland Trail Blazers are set to be very short-handed when they face the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. They have six players on their injury list, mainly all of their best players. Anfernee Simons is listed as out due to personal reasons, while Cody Zeller could be rested after playing against the Nets. Zeller is coming off a right knee patellar fracture injury.
Larry Nance Jr. is also out with an inflamed right knee and Norman Powell continues to be in the NBA's health and safety protocols. CJ McCollum is still recovering from a right lung pneumothorax, but could make his return after his wife gives birth this week.
As for Damian Lillard, he's still out due to abdominal tendinopathy. Lillard is set to undergo surgery to address the injury and he's expected to be out for six to eight weeks. It means Lillard could be out until the end of March, with the Blazers hoping they'll be in contention for a play-in spot.
Denver Nuggets Injury Report
The Denver Nuggets have six players on their injury report against the Portland Trail Blazers. Four players are listed as out, one is questionable and one is probable. Will Barton is expected to play after missing the past two games with a left toe sprain.
Markus Howard is listed as questionable due to a left knee sprain. Vlatko Cancar underwent right foot surgery and should be out indefinitely. Cancar joins P.J. Dozier, who underwent left ACL surgery, on the shelf.
Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. continue to recover from knee and spine surgeries, respectively. The Nuggets are hoping to have Murry and Porter Jr. back in their lineup sometime later this season. If the Nuggets can get those two back in time for the playoffs, the team could give Nikola Jokic some much-needed support.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets: Predicted Lineups
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers will have to cope with their current injury situation. With both Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons out against the Nuggets, Dennis Smith Jr. is likely going to be the starting point guard. Joining him in the backcourt is Ben McLemore, who will play at the shooting guard spot.
Jusuf Nurkic will be the center, while Nassir Little and Robert Covington will start at the forward positions. The Blazers will have to dig deep on their bench with guys like CJ Elleby, Trendon Watford and Tony Snell all expected to play significant minutes.
The Nuggets are expected to make one change to their starting lineup against the Blazers. Will Barton is expected to make his return at shooting guard, with Monte Morris at the point. Aaron Gordon will play as the small forward and JaMychal Green as the power forward.
Nikola Jokic remains at center as he continues to carry the Nuggets. Head coach Michael Malone has several options off the bench such as Facundo Campazzo, Jeff Green, Davon Reed, Zeke Nnaji and Bones Hyland.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets: Starting 5s
Portland Trail Blazers
Point Guard - Dennis Smith Jr. | Shooting Guard - Ben McLemore | Small Forward - Nassir Little | Power Forward - Robert Covington | Center - Jusuf Nurkic
Point Guard - Monte Morris | Shooting Guard - Will Barton | Small Forward - Aaron Gordon | Power Forward - JaMychal Green | Center - Nikola Jokic