PORTLAND – Denver Nuggets starting shooting guard Gary Harris (right shoulder soreness) remains officially listed as questionable to play Monday night at Portland. Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Harris participated in portions of the team’s shootaround, but that his status will be a game-time decision.
“He’s definitely feeling better,” Malone said of Harris.
Harris is averaging 12.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 44.1 percent from 3-point range.
Should Harris miss another game, Will Barton would again slide into the starting lineup. Barton, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Trail Blazers, totaled season highs in points (26) and rebounds (nine) in Saturday’s start against Orlando.
After Monday’s game, the Nuggets don’t play again until Friday’s home game against New Orleans.
Blazers report. During Monday’s Nuggets shootaround, Mason Plumlee consistently interjected with names of play calls and other tidbits about the Trail Blazers that Malone dubbed “corporate knowledge.”
Plumlee was part of Portland’s roster even more recently than Barton, getting dealt to the Nuggets at last year’s trade deadline in the move that sent Jusuf Nurkic to the Trail Blazers.
“That’s invaluable to have a guy that can offer those kinds of insights,” Malone said.
Plumlee downplayed his latest return to Portland, saying “it’s just another game” for him personally but still important for his team because it comes against a divisional opponent. He highlighted Denver’s two losses to the Trail Blazers in last season’s first 10 games when he was on the other side of the matchup, including an overtime thriller in which Damian Lillard hit a game-winning floater just before the buzzer.
Plumlee said he expects the dynamic backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum — who combine to average more than 48 points per game — to do the “heavy lifting” Monday. The key, he said, is limiting the rest of the lineup.
“You can’t let a third guy get off, whether that’s (Maurice) Harkless or Nurkic or (Noah) Vonleh,” Plumlee said.
Rebounding key. Portland entered Monday ranked 24th in the NBA in field-goal percentage (43.4). But the Trail Blazers are cleaning up on the glass, leading the league in rebounding (48.3 per game) and ranking second in offensive boards (11.8 per game).
Malone noted that Lillard is averaging as many offensive rebounds as Nurkic (1.5). Ed Davis leads Portland in that category with 3.3 per game.
“They have a lot of guys — not just one or two guys — on the glass,” Malone said. “… When we do play good defense and we force them to miss the shot, we have to understand the importance of rebounding, so now we can get out and run.”
Footnotes. The Nuggets cut Monday’s shootaround short for a strange reason — the temperature inside the Moda Center was uncharacteristically chilly. “Not really conducive to getting a lot of good work in,” Malone said after the session. “We’ll try to get our guys back to the hotel and thaw them out.” … Nuggets center Nikola Jokic on Monday was named the Western Conference player of the week. Jokic is averaging 17.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.46 steals through the first 13 games. He’s the 17th Nuggets player to earn the honor and first since Ty Lawson did it in 2013.