A pair of Northwest Division rivals collide tonight in the Rocky Mountains, where the Denver Nuggets will host the Portland Trail Blazers at the Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets are on the outside, looking in on a playoff berth and the Trail Blazers are right in their path with a half-game lead for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West and for second place in the division standings behind the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Denver has lost two straight and 10 of 13 games and entered the All-Star break following Thursday's 114-99 loss versus the San Antonio Spurs. Corey Brewer had 23 points and Andre Miller finished with 20 for the Nuggets, who got 19 points from Arron Afflalo and trailed by a 31-15 score after the first 12 minutes of action. Things didn't get any better in the second half either, as the Nuggets trailed, 65-39 at the break.
"I was very happy with the team [in the second half]," Nuggets head coach George Karl said. "We seemed to have a bounce in our step a little bit."
Karl's team was without guards Rudy Fernandez (back) and Ty Lawson (ankle) and forward Nene (calf). Fernandez and Lawson are questionable for Wednesday and Nene is listed as doubtful. The big man has missed seven straight games and is averaging 13.4 points and 7.8 rebounds this season.
Denver is still without leading scorer Danilo Gallinari due to a sprained left ankle. He is averaging 17.0 points in 25 contests in 2011-12 for a Nuggets team that is 9-8 in the Rocky Mountains this season.
Portland has alternated wins and losses over its last six games and will try to work on its less-than-stellar 5-11 road record tonight.
The well-rested Trail Blazers entered the All-Star break following last Tuesday's 137-97 blowout of the Spurs, who were sporting an unblemished record on their annual Rodeo Road Trip and did not have Tony Parker or Tim Duncan in the lineup for coach's reasons.
LaMarcus Aldridge led seven players in double-digit scoring with 21 points, while Jamal Crawford netted 20 points and handed out eight assists and Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum scored 19 points apiece for Portland, which shot a sizzling 59.3 percent for the game and buried 15-of-28 three-pointers.
"We knew this was a win we wanted to get before the break," said Portland guard Raymond Felton, who scored 16 points. "You don't want to go into the break with two losses like that, so it was a good thing to get this win tonight."
Portland scored 22 points off 13 San Antonio turnovers and got 17 points from Elliot Williams. Wesley Matthews round out the players in double figures with 11 points. The Trail Blazers will head home for three games versus Miami, Minnesota and New Orleans after their bout with Denver.
The Blazers have won the first two meetings with Denver this season and haven't swept a season series since taking all three matchups during the 1998-99 campaign. Portland, though, is winless in six straight trips to the Rockies and has dropped 21 of the last 23 games there.