Portland won't have Lillard vs. Nuggets
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Two teams jostling for position in the NBA's Western Conference playoff race collide Friday night when the Portland Trail Blazers play host to the Denver Nuggets at Moda Center.
The Trail Blazers and Nuggets are both 16-15 entering Friday's fray, both coming off Wednesday home losses. Portland fell 93-91 to San Antonio for its fifth straight home defeat. Denver lost 112-104 to Minneapolis to end an eight-game winning streak at Pepsi Center.
Portland and Denver sit in a three-way tie, along with Oklahoma City, for fifth place in the Western Conference, with New Orleans lurking just a game back in eighth place.
The Trail Blazers will be without point guard Damian Lillard, the league's No. 9 scorer at 25.2 points per game. Lillard sustained a strained hamstring in the third quarter against the Spurs. He re-entered in the fourth quarter but was noticeably limping by the end of the game.
This will be the first game Lillard has missed this season. His absence leaves coach Terry Stotts with several options.
He could keep CJ McCollum at shooting guard and start point guard Shabazz Napier, who scored 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting in 21 minutes off the bench Wednesday night.
Stotts could start McCollum at the point and have Pat Connaughton start at shooting guard. Or Stotts could move small forward Evan Turner to shooting guard and use Moe Harkless at small forward.
The Blazers -- 9-6 in road games but 7-9 at home -- were discouraged after taking the Spurs to the wire but coming up empty-handed again.
"We're struggling at home," said forward Ed Davis, who came off the bench for seven points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes. "It would have been good to get a win. We're fighting, giving ourselves a chance every night. But we haven't made enough plays to quite get it done."
Lillard's injury, McCollum said, "is kind of how our season has gone. Guys have gone down. Guys are battling injuries. But we have to figure out ways to still win games."
Denver, which is only 5-12 on the road, is coming off a game in which it committed 22 turnovers, which led to 21 Minnesota points. Nikola Jokic, who started at power forward alongside center Mason Plumlee, tallied 22 points and six rebounds but also turned it over 10 times.
"I need to take care of that," Jokic said. "Ten is a big number, but I was just trying to get my guys open."
The Nuggets have averaged 17.3 turnovers over the past six games.
"Every night, it's like we're spotting (the opponent) 20 points," coach Mike Malone said. "That's ridiculous. If you really care about winning, you'll take it upon yourself to say, 'I have to make better decisions.' I have to stop making silly plays and value the ball like it's the most important thing in the world.
"As much as I'd like to say (the turnovers are) my fault, I'm not going to do that. I'll take a hit for a game plan or lack of execution ... but we have to realize, at some point, if we want to be a good team, we can't give up 20 points a night on turnovers."
Starting guard Gary Harris (elbow) and backup guard Emmanuel Mudiay (ankle), who both missed the Minnesota game, are questionable for Friday.
Updated December 22, 2017