Playoff series are all about adjustments. The Denver Nuggets made theirs. Now the Portland Trail Blazers need to make one of their own. The series between the #4 and #5 seeds in the Western Conference is tied 1-1 heading to the Moda Center in Oregon. It will be a huge game for both teams, as it could very well dictate and decide the rest of the series.
Portland is the favorite of -4 with a total of 227.5 according to Bookmaker Sportsbook, which leaves bettors with a big decision to make. Denver was -1 in Game 1 and -2 in Game 2, but is now a pretty clear-cut underdog in Game 3. The total has also been elevated after both games in this series went over the total in Denver.
It wasn’t just the adjustment on Damian Lillard that the Nuggets made in Game 2 that was the difference. The Denver offense also had a much better performance. That’s not to say that Denver was bad in Game 1. Far from it. The Nuggets shot 50.5% from the floor overall, but were only 11-of-36 on threes and just 4-of-8 at the free throw line.
Denver was 12-of-28 from three in Game 2, but went to the line 30 times and made 24 of those attempts. They were 53.5% from the floor overall and had 29 assists on the 46 made field goals. After being held to one assist in Game 1, Nikola Jokic had five dimes in Game 2. The Nuggets really attacked the basket effectively and were able to get lots of buckets close to the rim and lots of free throw attempts.
It was actually a foul-heavy game on Monday night. Fifty-two fouls were called and 58 free throw attempts were taken. Compare that with Game 1 when 32 fouls were called and Portland had 19 free throw attempts to just eight for the Nuggets. It’s hard to play like that when something that wasn’t a foul in Game 1 is a foul in Game 2.
Jokic has scored 72 points over the first two games of this series. In Game 1, it was Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon that supplied the secondary scoring with 25 and 16 points, respectively. In Game 2, Jokic led five scorers in double figures, as the Nuggets were able to empty the bench late with the big lead. Jokic was 15-of-20 from the floor in that game.
The big free throw disparity was a huge part of Game 1, as the Nuggets were outscored by 14 points at the line. In Game 2, both teams were able equal, but Denver was more efficient from deep and also smarter with shot selection.
Portland Trail Blazers
Game 2 looked like it was going to be another Damian Lillard Show. After scoring 34 points in Game 1, Lillard scored 32 points in the first half of Game 2. He buried eight three-pointers over the first two quarters. However, Portland still trailed by 12 going into the break. It’s a wonder that the Blazers scored at all in the second half.
Portland put 6-foot-9 Aaron Gordon on Lillard and he shut down the Blazers star. Lillard only had 10 points in the second half and only made one three-pointer. He wound up with 42 points for the game, but he was visibly frustrated and flustered with the lack of help and with what Gordon’s length did to him. Now we wait to see if the Blazers figure out a way to get Lillard away from Gordon.
With the 12-point deficit and no real comeback mounted by the Blazers, they probably kept some things under wraps for getting Lillard open. They’ve had three days to sit on those adjustments and work through them. One adjustment could be more production from the rest of the team. CJ McCollum and Norman Powell were the only others in double figures for the Blazers in Game 2.
In Game 1, there were seven players in double figures, led by Lillard’s 34 points. The Blazers are 35-of-73 from three-point range in the series, but only secured a split. Can they keep shooting the lights out and take control of the series in Game 3?
Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers Free Pick
Doesn’t 4.5 seem like too big of a number here? The Blazers had that big free throw edge that dictated the outcome of Game 1. Without it, Denver controlled Game 2 and that was even with a huge first half from Lillard that was all for naught. The Nuggets got their bad shooting performance from three out of the way in Game 1.
You could look at this another way and say that Jokic and Lillard cancel each other out. Which supporting cast do you trust more? For me, right now, that’s Denver’s.
Pick: Denver Nuggets +4.5