Nuggets vs Blazers: The semifinals series matchup between the No. 2-seeded Denver Nuggets and the No. 3-seeded Portland Trail Blazers opened up with a bang as the Nuggets defeated the Blazers, 121-113, in Game 1 on Monday night.
The Nuggets took a 58-55 lead heading into halftime and the game was relatively close throughout, but Denver kept the lead and controlled the tempo for most of the night. Nikola Jokic continued his stellar postseason debut by leading the way with 37 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. He was complimented by Jamal Murray’s 23-point and eight assist performance and Paul Millsap’s 17-point outburst in the first half.
Damian Lillard put on a superhuman performance with 39 points, but it wasn’t enough to offset the Nuggets’ trio in the opening game of this series.
After defeating the San Antonio Spurs 4-3 in the first round, the Denver Nuggets have setup a second-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. The two teams are more than familiar with one another, as a division rivalry has been brewing for several seasons, further intensifying this series.
Season series: 3-1 Nuggets
Although most of the games have been close, Denver has had plenty of success against Portland over the past two seasons. The Nuggets have won six of the past seven games, with the one Portland victory coming in a game in which Denver rested Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap.
The games were high-scoring and offense-oriented. After posting an offensive rating of 112.1 throughout the course of the regular season, the Nuggets dropped a 117.2 offensive rating in the four games against Portland. The strong offensive performance was mainly a result of hot shooting, as Denver connected on 49 percent of shots from the field and 38.4 percent from three.
Despite losing Jusuf Nurkic to a season-ending leg injury towards the end of the regular season, Portland has continued to thrive, having just knocked out the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. The series win was Portland’s first since 2016 and third since Damian Lillard was drafted back in 2012.
Let’s take a look at the key matchups, storylines and statistics that could decide this second-round series.
1) Enes Kanter vs. Jokić
The Nuggets faced two different Trail Blazers teams during the regular season. After facing a healthy Portland team in the first two matchups, the last two games between the teams occurred after Nurkic was lost for the season. Therefore, there is only a two-game sample in which Denver faced a Portland team with Kanter starting at center.
Next up for Nikola Jokic and company is a date with the No. 3 seed Portland Trail Blazers, who are coming off an impressive 4-1 series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The series was sealed on a wild 37-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer of Game 5 by Damian Lillard, and his play will surely be a talking point moving forward in the playoffs.
We’re going to preview the series between the Blazers and Nuggets while offering a prediction on which team will advance to the Western Conference Finals.