The Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets kicked off their series on Monday night and will pick it back up on Wednesday. Portland came into the series with a ton of momentum, but Denver looked like the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference in the series opener. The Nuggets were able to hold on for a 121-113 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Portland looked really sharp in the first round, eliminating the Oklahoma City Thunder in just five games. The Trail Blazers have been good for the last few seasons, but they appear to be taking the next step. Denver needed all seven games to knock off the San Antonio Spurs in round one, and they were lucky to survive. The Nuggets had a great regular season to earn the second seed. Denver is a -3.5 point favorite over the Trail Blazers in Game 2.
Jokic Does It All For Denver
Nikola Jokic is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, but the Portland Trail Blazers know all about his greatness. “The Joker” poured in 37 points in the series opener, going 12-12 from the free-throw line. The All-Star center is nearly averaging a triple-double so far in these playoffs, and his 8.8 assists have set up his teammates. You can expect the Trail Blazers to focus in on him in Game 2.
Denver shot really well from the field in the series opener against the Trail Blazers, but that hasn’t been the case all postseason. Jamal Murray poured in 23 points on 8-15 shooting in Game 1, and Denver made all but four of their 31 free-throw attempts. The Nuggets will need to focus on their defense more in Game 1, after allowing 113 points in the opener.
Turnovers, Defense Hurting Portland
Portland did almost everything right in their first-round series against the Thunder, but that wasn’t the case in Game 1. The Trail Blazers committed 18 turnovers in the series opener, and point guard Damian Lillard had six of them. Portland also gave up 122 points to a Denver team that hasn’t been scoring a ton of points this season. The Trail Blazers have plenty of adjustments to make in advance of Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Damian Lillard had a game-high 39 points in Game 1, but he needs more help from his backcourt mate. CJ McCollum was held to just 16 points on 7-17 shooting from the field, and that won’t get the job done moving forward. Portland also had a pair of starters combining for just four points in the loss, and they must find a way to help out their All-Star point guard.
Blazers Bounce Back with Win
Denver looked about as good as they could have in the series opener, but that won’t last throughout. Portland looks like a real threat to win the NBA title this season, and they aren’t going to lose both games on the road. Look for the Trail Blazers to slow down Jokic and make more shots in Game 2 to even up the series at 1-1. Take the 3.5 points and bet the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.