Last Updated: 2019-05-07
All year long, the key for Denver has been Jamal Murray. The Nuggets have a superstar in Nikola Jokic, but they need a player that can knock down the looks that Jokic sets up. Murray came through in a big way on Sunday night following a heartbreaking quadruple overtime loss for Denver in Game 3. He shot 50 percent from the floor and hit all 11 of his free throws to lead all scorers with 34 points in a 116-112 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. That has the series between Denver and Portland tied 2-2, and the Nuggets will have home court advantage in what has become a three game series.
Jusuf Nurkic is the only player listed on the injury report for Portland ahead of tonight’s game. Nurkic won’t be available until next season after a terrible lower leg injury near the end of the regular season. Mo Harkless has been dealing with a sprained ankle over the last few days, while Enes Kanter continues to have trouble with his left shoulder.
Michael Porter Jr. is a long-term injury for Denver, as the Nuggets’ first round pick has not played this season. Torrey Craig is no longer wearing a protective mask after busting his nose earlier in the series, and he is the only other injury worry for Denver.
Denver was initially a 4.5-point favorite for tonight’s game, and there has been a bit of action on the Nuggets. Sharps may be taking Denver’s altitude into account as fatigue is now a major factor since there has not been more than a night off yet in this series. Denver is now -5, and the over/under is 213. The latter number is down 1.5 points since it opened.
Portland’s lack of a frontcourt really hurt the Blazers in Game 4. Kanter’s shoulder seemed to bother him a lot and he was largely a non-factor on Sunday. He finished with just five points and turned the ball over four times, as his only real contribution was on the glass.
Even though Kanter is hurting, he can’t have another bad game if the Blazers are going to win Game 5. The loss of Nurkic leaves Portland very shorthanded up front, and Al-Farouq Aminu is not someone that is going to provide a lot of offense in the paint. Kanter has to give the Blazers options in the low post. The Blazers lost despite hitting 43 percent from the three-point line, so it’s clear they need something on offense.
Denver’s two big weapons in this series are Jokic and a deeper bench. Jokic is a match-up nightmare for any team. There aren’t many big men with his low post skills and vision, and his ability to suck in defenders only to then find an open teammate is unparalleled. Through four games, Portland has yet to stop him, and he has a triple double in his last two outings.
The Nuggets have three bench players that can score as well, while the Blazers might have the worst bench of any team remaining in the playoffs. Seth Curry finally had a nice outing, but Zach Collins gets eaten alive when he is on the court and Evan Turner is shooting an abysmal 15.8 percent from the field in nine playoff games.
I’m going to lay the points with the Nuggets tonight. I’m a little concerned that Jokic has had no real rest, but Portland doesn’t have a bench or a frontcourt and they have to largely win through Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Denver has more winning combinations than Portland, so I’ll back the Nuggets.
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