How in the world does a team pull down 23 rebounds on the offensive end and still manage to lose a game by seven points? When they can’t make a shot to save their lives. This is the situation the Denver Nuggets found themselves in for Game 2 of their Western Conference playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers, and they have that to solve, along with other issues, as Game 3 tips off at 10:35 PM ET at the Moda Center.
In the NBA playoff odds posted on this game through the folks at BetAnySports, the Blazers are the favorites:
Portland Trail Blazers -4 (-108)
Denver Nuggets +4 (-102)
Over 214.5 points (-108)
Under 214.5 points (-102)
Denver made just six of 29 shots from three-point range in the game, and they simply missed some wide-open shots. They hit 11.1% from the corner, and that is unacceptable. Now, you can look at this and decide that the Nuggets have to get back toward the middle somewhere, after being hot in Game 1 and ice cold in Game 2, and keep in mind that they only lost by seven points.
Another factor here is that the two players who might normally be expected to put a lot of points on the board did not. Nikola Jokic had just 16 for Denver, while Damian Lillard had a relatively quiet night with 14 for the Blazers.
There are some banged-up players to talk about. The condition of Mo Harkless’ ankle makes him a game-time decision for Portland. When you look at the metrics, Harkless was a very valuable member of the lineup – the Blazers were 119.8 on the Offensive Rating and 103.8 in Defensive Rating with him out there since the All-Star break, and he had picked up in terms of minutes in the first series against Oklahoma City.
Denver’s Torrey Craig has devoted himself to being a hound on defense, but now he is playing with a broken nose. And Jamal Murray is still being bothered by a thigh injury. He’s admitted that himself. “I’ll get treatment and get ready for Game 3, but it’s definitely hurting,” he says.
It really didn’t matter much where the Nuggets were shooting from two nights ago – they were 28 of 69 inside the arc too, which is under 41% – and when you think about it, just a few more shots going their way would have won this for them. It was a frustrating experience.
The most encouraging thing, it would seem, to come out of Wednesday night’s game was that Denver had all those boards. Their offensive rebounding percentage was 36.5%, and that is off the charts. That is a “hustle” stat more than anything else. Jokic and Paul Millsap rated very high in that category, while Enes Kanter was less than ordinary on the defensive boards.
You don’t want to base everything on what happened in the previous game, obviously, but for the time being, we are going to get off the total, even though it has dropped five points from Game 2. These teams have played at a pace of 95.5 throughout the first two games, which is slow. And even if they had gotten on fire two nights ago, they wouldn’t have topped the number.
The signs out of Denver weren’t bad in Game 2 from that “hustle” standpoint, and even though they can’t be expected to grab 23 offensive rebounds again, it’s clear that they can still exploit a matchup advantage with Jokic over whoever the Blazers put against him, including Kanter, who also got banged around the other night. If Harkless can’t go, that looms very important for us, and as we’d bank on the Nuggets being at least a little more accurate, we’ll take points.
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