Denver Nuggets (2) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (3)
The Portland Trail Blazers are well rested after dispatching the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the first round. The Denver Nuggets are not as fortunate after going to seven games and finishing their series off on Saturday, so it’ll be a quick turnaround. These are two teams that really have not been here recently. Portland is coming off two first-round sweeps before getting over the hump this season, and Denver had not been in the playoffs for years.
When looking at the regular season series, the Nuggets won 3-1, but the playoffs, as we know, are a different beast altogether, and Damian Lillard has proven that he is ready for this stage. Nikola Jokic has done the same as he shined for the Nuggets against San Antonio. The question for the Nuggets is if they are going to get Jamal Murray to play consistently well throughout the series. For Portland, aside from their backcourt, do they have enough firepower to contend with the Nuggets if they get going? We’ll get the answer starting tonight.
Series TV Schedule
Game 1: Mon, April 29 Portland at Denver, 10:30 pm ET, TNT
Game 2: Wed, May 1 Portland at Denver, 9 pm ET, TNT
Game 3: Fri, May 3 Denver at Portland, 10:30 pm ET, ESPN
Game 4: Sun, May 5 Denver at Portland, 7 pm ET, TNT
Games 5-7 TBD if necessary
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
Portland Trail Blazers Starting Lineup
Key Player Matchups
PG: Jamal Murray vs. Damian Lillard
Edge Portland. As I said in the first round, Murray can be hit or miss, but when he’s on, look out. He’ll have a much more difficult matchup in this round seeing Damian Lillard instead of Derrick White. Lillard has a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove and he’ll be a difference-maker in this series. Murray could make this an interesting matchup, but it’ll be a tough one against Lillard.
SG – Gary Harris vs. CJ McCollum
Edge Portland. Gary Harris had a nice first round and I picked him to be the X-Factor in the first round, and he ended up being just that, but McCollum is not Bryn Forbes. McCollum had a great series as well, and he’ll make Harris work hard on defense.
SF – Will Barton vs. Mo Harkless
Edge Even. Mike Malone could go back to Barton or could also use Torrey Craig here like he did late in the series against the Spurs. Regardless, it should be a pretty close matchup. If Harkless can get his offense going and help with his length on defense, this could turn, but he hasn’t been consistent enough.
PF – Paul Millsap vs. Al-Farouq Aminu
Edge Denver. While Millsap’s first-round numbers won’t jump off the page, the same can be said of Aminu. Millsap, however, defended LaMarcus Aldridge well, and he’ll have a more favorable matchup this series against Aminu.
C – Nikola Jokic vs. Enes Kanter
Edge Denver. Kanter is starting the series injured and so Portland may rely more heavily on Myers Leonard and Zach Collins. Jokic showed in the first round that he’s capable of triple-doubles on a nightly basis and he was a beast. Kanter has the best chance defending him, and Leonard and Collins don’t have much of a chance. This is Denver’s biggest matchup advantage.
Coach: Michael Malone vs. Terry Stotts
Slight Edge Nuggets. Both are great coaches, but Malone showed that he belongs in the playoffs. He made smart adjustments between each game, put the pressure on the Spurs, managed his rotations well and also drew up some great ATOs. Malone impressed coaching against Gregg Popovich so you’d have to give him a slight edge here.
Bench: Edge Denver. I can pretty much copy and paste what I said about Denver in the first round. They had to go deep into their roster with the injuries they had and Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, and Mason Plumlee are all better because of that. Portland’s bench isn’t as deep and Stotts didn’t have one consistent go-to player in the second unit all series.
Paul Millsap – If Millsap can defend as well as he did in round one and play a bigger role on offense, that could be a series-changer. While Jokic and Murray were the heroes of the Spurs’ series, Millsap was the unsung hero that deserves as much praise. Limiting Aldridge as much as he did and sometimes even making him a non-factor was huge for Denver. He also helped on Rudy Gay in the first few games, and it’s no accident Gay struggled early in the series. Millsap has the veteran experience and the edge to really be a difference-maker.
Mo Harkless – Harkless had a slow start to the series against Oklahoma City, but he was a key player in games four and five. In those two games, he averaged 16 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He also had three blocks and two steals in Game 4. If he can clean up his shooting percentages a bit and use that momentum he built up, he gives Portland a third option they can rely on and someone they will look to on defense.
Blazers in 7. The Nuggets are a tough squad and they grew up a lot in the first round, but their backcourt will no longer have an easy advantage and will have to deal with Next Level Dame. If Kanter is back healthy, Portland should be able to take the series, but I’m ready to see how Portland defends the Joker and how Denver tries to deny Dame and CJ McCollum.
For more predictions on this and every round two series, visit our 2019 NBA Playoff Prediction Roundup.
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