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Playoff-hopeful Blazers look to snap Denver’s domination

The Denver Nuggets look to maintain their recent regular-season domination of Portland when they oppose the Trail Blazers on Thursday night at the Visa Athletic Center near Orlando.

The Nuggets are 3-0 against Portland this season and have won nine of the past 10 meetings. They rolled to a 127-99 home win over the Trail Blazers in the most recent matchup on Feb. 4.

The latest tilt is exceedingly more important to Portland as it attempts to close in on the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers are one game behind the Grizzlies and reside in ninth place as they attempt to gain a play-in berth.

“You only can worry about yourself because it’s going to be a race, and teams are going to win games,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said after his club’s 110-102 win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. “It’s so tight that you can’t worry about them because you have to worry about yourself.”

The Nuggets are in third place in the West and 2-1 since the restart after notching a 132-126 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

Emerging forward Michael Porter Jr. had his second straight prolific game with 30 points and a career-best 15 rebounds. He scored a career-best 37 points two nights earlier during an overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder and is clicking well with Denver star center Nikola Jokic.

“If you know me, the Nuggets drafted me as a scorer,” Porter told reporters afterward. “They knew that was one of my big strengths. Playing with a superstar who would rather pass the ball than shoot the ball obviously is going to work out for both of us.”

Porter has made 23 of 35 field-goal attempts during the stretch, including 9 of 15 from 3-point range, while often being set up by the unselfish Jokic.

Jokic had 25 points and 11 assists against the Spurs. He is finding that the 22-year-old Porter is a good person to locate on the floor.

“You know he’s going to make the shot,” Jokic told reporters. “He’s going to be there. He’s going to rebound. He’s a big target for me. “Just to know you have a really good player, a talented player, they cannot help with him. It’s helping me in that kind of way.”

Porter took a team-high 19 shots (making 11) against San Antonio as Denver played without the starting backcourt of Jamal Murray (hamstring) and Gary Harris (hip) and small forward Will Barton (knee) for the third straight game.

The Trail Blazers, who also are 2-1 since the restart, aim to deliver a second straight strong effort.

Portland cleaned up on the boards against Houston with a 64-39 rebounding edge and played solid team basketball for most of the contest.

And when the Rockets tied the score at 100, Portland didn’t wilt at the thought of giving up a 13-point lead. Instead, backup guard Gary Trent Jr. drained the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2:53 left, and forward Carmelo Anthony added another trey with 54.6 seconds to play as the Trail Blazers closed it out.

Anthony (15 points, 11 rebounds) was the club’s fifth-leading scorer during the balanced effort.

Star guard Damian Lillard, who scored 21 points, expressed annoyance that people are still stunned Anthony has fit in so well with Portland.

“I think it’s more disappointing that people are surprised by it,” Lillard told reporters. “He’s a Hall of Famer. … He’s a great teammate, and that’s what we expect from him.”

Shooting guard CJ McCollum (20 points), center Jusuf Nurkic (18 points, 19 rebounds) and Trent (16) also had solid outings.

Lillard averaged 22 points and 9.3 assists in the three losses to Denver earlier this season. Jokic averaged 23 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists for the Nuggets.

–Field Level Media

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