Friday marks the final exhibition game of the year for the Portland Trail Blazers.
With the last tune-up before tipping off the regular season at home against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 23, there’s plenty to still figure out, especially on the defensive end, which was apparent in Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Nuggets.
The focus has been about the changes in Portland’s defense this year, but if Wednesday was any indication the shortened training camp hasn’t given the Blazers enough time to hone in on the new schemes.
Thursday’s practice for Portland was heavily focused on their defensive principles after reviewing game film.
Here’s what our Trail Blazers Insider, Dwight Jaynes had to say about the Blazers and Nuggets first preseason matchup Wednesday:
"Quite obviously, it’s going to take longer than a few days to change the face of the Trail Blazers’ defense. And Wednesday night’s 126-95 mile-high blowout in Denver showed just how long it might take.
For a team that has a stated goal of playing better defense this season, the game was an obvious major step backward. You can say it was just an exhibition game -- which it was -- but it was also a measuring stick for improvement against a team that will be competing with Portland all season for playoff seeding.
The Trail Blazers were ambushed by 17 points in the first quarter and settled into a 20-point deficit that finally grew even larger in the final quarter.
They were outplayed, outhustled and well, just out to lunch when it came to the new defensive principles the team is trying to install.
Coach Terry Stotts wouldn’t question his team’s effort -- he never does. His style is to take the heat for for his players.
“I think it was more just positioning and, you know, reading and communicating. I wouldn't I wouldn't necessarily call it effort,” he said.
But Enes Kanter put the blame for the performance someplace else.
“We just need to go out there and just play hard. Play harder than what we did tonight, you know.” Kanter said. “We just didn't play hard enough at both ends.”
This game looked so much like a lot of games last season, when the Trail Blazers allowed wide-open shots from three-point range and still got whipped in the paint, too. The Nuggets made 52.3 percent of their overall shots and 19 of 46 from three-point range."
Read more from Dwight here.
The Blazers are a +4.5 against the Nuggets Friday, odds provided by our partner PointsBet.
Here’s what you need to know about the Trail Blazers final exhibition game of the year --
- Portland and Denver will play three times during the 2020-21 regular season. The first meeting is on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The other two matchups will occur in the second half of the season.
- Last Season: The Nuggets won the season series against the Trail Blazers, 3-1.
- Damian Lillard scored 45 points to go with four rebounds, 12 assists and three steals to lead Portland past Denver in Orlando on Aug. 6. -- that tied his own franchise record for three-pointers in a game. In four games against the Nuggets last season, Lillard averaged 27.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists.
- CJ McCollum averaged 15.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in four games against the Nuggets last season.
POINT SPREAD: -- Trail Blazers: +4.5 (-110) -- Nuggets -4.5 (-110)
HOW TO WATCH:
When: Friday, December 18
Where: Ball Arena | Denver, CO
Start time: 6:00 p.m. PT
TV channel: NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers
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