Nuggets-Trail Blazers Preview

The Associated Press

The Denver Nuggets have shown that even without their leading scorer they can still run opposing teams off the floor with the league's best transition offense.

The Portland Trail Blazers are just hoping they can keep their banged-up shooting guard on the floor to make a run at the playoffs.

The high-powered Nuggets try to build on an impressive victory and earn a rare win in Portland on Wednesday night.

Denver (36-22) leads the league in fast-break points at 19.4 per game, and it's been even better in transition since Jan. 18, averaging 22.7 while going 12-5.

Monday provided another showcase for the team's ability to score on the run as Denver matched a season high with 33 fast-break points in a 119-108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, its ninth straight at home.

"We were having fun out there," Kenneth Faried told the team's official site. "When we're having fun and clicking like that as a team, it's pretty hard to stop us."

Faried had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his 24th double-double and the Nuggets improved to 14-5 when scoring at least 22 fast-break points.

One of the more impressive aspects about Monday's performance was that it came without the services of Danilo Gallinari, the team's leading scorer at 16.9 ppg. Gallinari was a late scratch with a bruised left thigh, but Wilson Chandler replaced him and put together another good showing with 23 points.

Chandler is averaging 18.7 points on 22-of-42 (52.4 percent) shooting over his last three games. He also hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 14.9 seconds remaining in overtime in a 115-111 win over the Trail Blazers on Jan. 15.

"Will's been playing great, knocking down big shots," teammate Corey Brewer said. "He's spreading the floor for us and driving. It's hard for bigs to guard him, so he's getting a lot of things done."

Although Chandler is playing well, Denver would probably like to have Gallinari back against Portland. He scored 25 in last month's meeting and is averaging 19.4 points over his last five games versus the Blazers.

Andre Iguodala has also experienced success in 16 contests against them, averaging 19.4 points - 4.3 higher than his career average, and his best against any opponent.

The Nuggets, however, haven't enjoyed much success lately in Portland, losing their last six there.

Portland (26-30) will need to tighten up its transition defense after allowing an average of 16.0 fast-break points over its last three games. The Blazers sit four games out of the Western Conference's eighth spot, and will likely need Wesley Matthews to continue to gut it out if they hope to make the playoffs.

Matthews, who said he's "not even close to 80 percent," continues to play through injuries to his left leg, ankle and elbow suffered just prior to the All-Star break. He's already proven to be one of the NBA's most durable players, appearing in 250 straight games to start his career before a hip injury kept him out earlier this season.

Matthews played through the pain again to score 24 points - including five 3-pointers - in a 92-86 win over Boston on Sunday, putting the brakes on a seven-game skid.

"We haven't lost hope. We haven't lost belief," said Matthews, averaging 15.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. "We still feel we can make these playoffs. We know what we've got to do."

Nicolas Batum has averaged 22.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists as Portland has split the season's first two meetings with Denver.

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