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Monte Morris (11) of the Denver Nuggets tries to grab a loose ball against Seth Curry (31) of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Portland Trail Blazers for the fifth game of the second round of the playoffs at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, May 7, 2019.
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The Nuggets don’t have to wait long before they’ll get a chance to exact some measure of revenge on Portland.

When Denver opens the regular season against the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night on ESPN, it will mark the 10th time they’ve faced each other in the Nuggets’ last 12 games overall.

The Nuggets swept the preseason series 2-0, a paltry accomplishment after Portland ousted Denver in the second round of last year’s playoffs.

“What better way to start it off?” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “National TV, a great atmosphere and a team that has left a bad taste in our mouth most of the summer.”

After a rare two days off, and probably their last string of consecutive rest days for the next few months, Malone said his team convened for a “tremendous” practice that cleaned up some of their issues in Thursday’s preseason finale.

“I always worry about a practice after an off day,” Malone said. “ … (We) did a lot of scrimmaging today, guys got after it, it was clean, guys played the right way. I like where we’re at mentally and physically. Obviously, I think we know Portland, and Portland knows us.”

Thursday’s win, which capped a perfect 4-0 preseason, left Malone disappointed in his team’s defensive effort, especially against some of the Trail Blazers’ reserves.

“I wasn’t happy after that game. … I’m a competitor,” Malone said. “And if we’re serious about doing the things that we talk about, you have to live it every day. I don’t want to talk about it, I want to be about it.”

Privately, Nuggets officials talked this past summer about goals for the upcoming season. “Why not us?” was a consistent question that became a point of emphasis at media day three weeks ago. Ever since nearly every Nuggets player has been asked about contending for a title and what they believe that’s going to take.

“A championship team, you can’t win it overnight,” said Nuggets point guard Monte Morris. “It’s day-by-day, I think it’s just carrying yourself like a champion on and off the court, being on time for film, weights and just being that same guy every single day. I think that’s the definition we try to use and don’t try to change up.”

Due to last year’s sizable leap in the standings, having missed the playoffs since 2013 only to reach the conference semifinals, Nuggets players know there’s a target on their back.

“We can’t sneak up on nobody anymore,” Morris said. “They’re circling us on the calendar now. We just gotta be ready to go every time because we’re solidified now as far as the top teams in the West.”

Morris has a solution for the handful of prognosticators ready to anoint the Nuggets to contender status – something he claims is unavoidable in today’s media landscape.

“Just staying true to who you are and trusting your coaches, your teammates and keeping everything in house,” Morris said. “I think that’ll be the easiest way, I think not listening to outsiders who aren’t in here grinding every single day.”

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