Game: Denver Nuggets @ Portland Trail Blazers
Time: 10:00 p.m. ET
Odds: Nuggets +5, Trail Blazers -5
After missing nine and a half months of regular-season competition, Damian Lillard isn’t coming back slowly. Lillard has averaged 41 points over the past two games, and on Monday night when the Portland Trail Blazers play the Denver Nuggets, he’ll try to lead his team to a fourth straight victory to start the season.
Due to an abdominal injury, Lillard was only able to play in 29 games last year, but he didn’t take long to regain his six-time All-Star form this season. When the Trail Blazers stunned the visiting Phoenix Suns 113-111 in overtime on Friday, Lillard hit five 3-pointers in his first 41-point performance. Two days later, in a 106-104 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, he scored 41 points again, making six three-pointers in the process. After three games, Lillard is averaging 34 points a game.
Despite Lillard’s long history as a star in the league, several observers questioned whether his output was due to start falling off. Lillard is currently 32 years old and playing in his 11th NBA season. In addition, he has played more than 35 minutes per game each season of his career. Three games into the new season, it doesn’t appear that Lillard’s game has suffered at all.
After losing their season opener, the Nuggets have won their last two games. In Friday’s 122-117 home victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 16 rebounds, and 13 assists. He tied Wilt Chamberlain for sixth place all-time with his 78th career triple-double.
Jamal Murray continued his comeback against the Thunder by scoring 16 points. In April 2021, he tore the ACL in his left knee. He didn’t play at all last season. Murray played in his second game of the year, and Denver coach Michael Malone noted that it was an improvement over his season-opening performance.
After being limited to nine games last season by back problems, Michael Porter Jr. is now healthy. He averages 18 points per game and scored 22 against the Thunder. In the Nuggets’ last two games, Porter has made five 3-pointers. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 21 points on six 3-pointers. He was acquired from Washington in a trade in the offseason and is fitting into the Denver starting lineup.
The Nuggets went 3-1 against Portland last season and have now won 14 of the last 18 matchups. In the last six meetings, Denver is 5-1 SU and ATS. Dating back to last season, Portland is just 4-15 SU in its last 19 games and 4-10 ATS in its last 14.
Historically, this series has been high-scoring. Over the last ten games, the two teams have averaged a combined 234.4 points per game. The Over has hit in eight of the last ten games. The Over is 7-2 in the Nuggets’ last nine games and 2-1 in its three games so far in the new season. The Over is 9-4 in the last 13 games with Denver played in Portland.
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