Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers NBA Playoffs Preview
Preview, Prediction and Picks
The playoffs can create mutual animosity, and that seems to be what happens in the first round of the Western Conference.
The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers are in the same division and defeated him in a seven-game series two years ago, but the intensity has increased in the first two games of their series this year.
Game 2, won by Denver on Monday to tie the series 1-1, featured four technical fouls, two flagrant fouls and 52 joint fouls. There were shoves and jaws between the teams, and no one shuns anything.
That should make Thursday night more intriguing as the series continues with Game 3 in Portland. Denver fought back in Game 2, got more physical and defended the 3-point line better, except when Damian Lillard was shooting. The result was a 19-point victory two nights after the Trail Blazers won the first game by 14.
The physical game has been accentuated by many conversations from the Nuggets, according to the Portland players.
Denver made some adjustments on the court to slow down Lillard. He had 32 points in the first half of Game 2, but coach Michael Malone used Aaron Gordon 6-10 against him in the second half, helping hold Lillard to 10 points.
The next adjustment will come from Portland, who was not surprised that Gordon stayed with Lillard.
Denver also used guard Shaquille Harrison to stop Lillard, and was sometimes effective in doing so.
The Nuggets also had more movement around Nikola Jokic when he had the ball on offense. Jokic received one career playoff assist - one assist in Game 1 and finished with five in Game 2.
Denver's chances of stealing a game at Portland would increase if goalie Will Barton could recover from a right hamstring strain he suffered on April 23. Barton could provide another body to hold Lillard and CJ McCollum and give the Nuggets more attack.
Denver has not said when Barton will return, but has indicated that he is ready to play again.
When and if Barton returns to this series, he will experience the intensity of the playoffs.
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