The NBA is set up with only one playoff games on Wednesday night. The matchup will be between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets who will battle it out in Game 2 of their second round series. Game 1 of the series was tight, and I expect both teams to play another solid game on May 1. This matchup will be on TNT at around 9:00 PM Eastern time.
The Trail Blazers finished out the regular season with a record of 53-29, which put them in third place of the Western Conference standings. Portland had a strong finish to the regular season winning twenty of their last twenty-six games. The Trail Blazers used that momentum to take their first round matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. Portland will look to even up the series on Wednesday night.
Denver put up a strong season, finishing in second place of the Western Conference with a record of 54-28. The Nuggets met up with the Spurs in the first round and it took a tough seven-game series to move on against San Antonio. Denver earned a tough win in Game 1 and will look to take a 2-0 series lead before heading to Portland.
These two teams have matched up nicely in just about every game that they have played against each other this season. Game 1 was back and forth and I would expect something similar between these two teams in Game 2. Both teams finished one game apart in the standings, which should help foreshadow this being one of the better series in this round.
PThe Trail Blazers and the Nuggets met up a total of four times throughout the regular season. Denver went on to take the first three games of the season series by one point, three points, and nine points respectively. Portland was able to take the last game of the season series by a score of 115-108 at home. The Nuggets will look to continue to find ways to win close games against the Trail Blazers in this series.
Game 1 of this series was hosted by Denver on April 29. Damian Lillard continued his tear throughout the playoffs by dropping 39 points for the Trail Blazers. Enes Kanter had 26 points, while Rodney Hood put up 17 points off the bench. Nikola Jokic had 37 points and 9 rebounds for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray added another 23 points, while Paul Millsap had 19 points. Denver was able to pull away with a 121-113 win at home.
Even though the Nuggets have gone 4-1 against the Trail Blazers in the regular season and the playoffs, all five games have been decided by nine points or less. This helps show how evenly matched both teams are, and I believe that this trend should continue in Game 2. I believe that Portland has a good chance to pull of their first win in Denver this season.
Three Point Shooting
The Trail Blazers have been the second-best team at shooting the three ball throughout these playoffs. Portland has been able to make 40.1 percent of their three-point shots, a lot of it coming from Damian Lillard’s strong run. The Trail Blazers made 35.9 percent of their three’s in the regular season, while allowing their opponents to make 35.9 percent of their shots from deep as well.
Denver’s three-point shooting has been solid in this playoff run, shooting 36.7 percent from behind the arc. The Nuggets were able to make around 35.1 percent of their three-point shots from deep in the regular season. Denver’s specialty was defending the three-point shot though, holding opposing teams to a percentage of 33.9 percent, which was best in the NBA.
With the Trail Blazers finding their stroke from deep, it will be a good matchup to watch to see how Denver guards them to try and limit their attempts and makes from behind the arc. The Nuggets will look to shut down the passing lanes in Game 2 to try and hold Lillard and McCollum from finding open looks.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again, Damian Lillard has stepped up in a huge way for the Trail Blazers this postseason. Lillard is averaging 34 points per game on this run. C.J. McCollum has been doing well, averaging 23 points per game. Enes Kanter has been a sigh of relief for Portland as he has averaged 15.5 points per game. Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu have averaged around 9.5 points per game.
Nikola Jokic has been leading the Nuggets with an average of 25 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists per game this postseason run. Jamal Murray has been averaging 19.5 points per game. Gary Harris has averaged 14.5 points, while Paul Millsap is averaging 13 points per game. Denver’s starting lineup has been carrying them, while their depth has not been as prominent as it was in the regular season.
One of the key matchups to watch throughout this series is between Jamal Murray and Damian Lillard. Both point guards have looked good throughout this playoff run. Murray will need to be on the top of his defensive game though if he wants to slow down Lillard. Jokic will look to give the Nuggets an advantage from the Center spot going up against Kanter.
These two teams played tight games throughout this season and I expect the same on Wednesday night. I believe that the Trail Blazers have a good chance to pull off an upset against Denver on the road in Game 2. If the Trail Blazers can continue to see Lillard put up a strong performance and if the starting lineup can give him a bit more support, they could keep it real close.
BetOnline has the Nuggets listed as a -3 ½ against the spread in Game 2. Portland also has the better payout at -105 in comparison to Denver who is at -115. If the Trail Blazers can move the ball and shoot well from behind the arc, I believe they have a good chance to win. There is a lot of value on the Trail Blazers as underdogs in this game.