Portland Trail Blazers set to ramp up minutes and defense vs. Denver Nuggets this week

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Trail Blazers set to ramp up minutes and defense vs. Denver Nuggets this week originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

The Portland Trail Blazers are hitting the road.

Portland will land in Denver Tuesday night in preparation for the Blazers' third and fourth preseason games of the year.

The Blazers and Nuggets will square off on Wednesday and Friday night in the Mile High City, with Friday’s contest slated as Portland’s fourth and final exhibition game.

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Blazers head coach Terry Stotts plans to ramp up his players’ minutes during these final tune-ups.

“I’d like to extend the minutes of our rotation players and I’m not saying it’s a game rotation, but I think you’ll see both games with the minutes extended a little bit more,” Stotts said after Tuesday’s practice.   

“Other than that it’s just continuing to work on what we’ve been working on in practice at both ends of the floor.”

But it’s on the defensive end that will bring the most opportunities for Portland to improve upon in that department.

The two-man game between Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic has led the Nuggets to postseason success over the past two seasons.

The duo’s strong connection on the pick and roll is something that the Trail Blazers remember well during the 2019 playoffs.

And thus, in the preseason getting in defensive reps against such a "dynamic" duo is what Coach Stotts is most looking forward to this week.

“Defensively -- Denver is a dynamic offensive team with Jokic and Murry. So they provide different challenges. A lot of times, no matter who you play in preseason games, it gives you an opportunity to work on situations like they run a lot of dribble handoffs and a lot of big men passing and cutting. So that will provide us an opportunity to work on those specific situations.”

Coach Stotts also mentioned that Zach Collins and Anfernee Simons will make the trip to Denver. Collins is continuing to rehab his left ankle, while Simons suffered a hamstring injury during last Friday’s preseason contest against the Kings.

Collins isn’t expected to be cleared to play until mid- Jan., while it’s unclear if Simons will be able to play Wednesday in Denver.

Trail Blazers backup center Enes Kanter mentioned Tuesday that for him personally, he’s looking to get in “better NBA game shape” over the next week.

And again, it’s all about working towards the goal of getting better defensively as a cohesive unit.

“The whole world knows we’re going to score the ball… But, I think for us to get to the next level -- it’s the defense. That’s why we’ve been focusing on it the last two weeks. So we just gotta go out there play hard, play smart, have fun, trust each other and just communicate.”

The Trail Blazers and Nuggets will tip-off at 6:00 p.m. PST Wednesday on NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.