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4) Portland Trail Blazers
3) Denver Nuggets
If Game 1 wasn’t a sign of things to come in this series, then how convincing could it get. As expected, it was offense and offense. Both the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets played through their All-Stars. The difference in the game was Nikola Jokic had more support than Damian Lillard.
Keys to the game
It was expected that Portland was going to lean on their heavy hitters Lillard and C.J. McCollum but everyone else has to step up. McCollum can’t disappear in the second half, his scoring and leadership is necessary. If they continue to attack the paint, that will set up the open three-pointers.
It was also known that Jokic would have his way against Enes Kanter. The Blazers have to prevent Jokic from getting the ball and when he does, double quickly. If Jokic has a down game, Denver usually struggles.
Denver should continue to play their offense but they should expect some type of double team at some point in Game 2. This cause for the ball movement to be quick and crisp. If they start to deny the ball to Jokic at the top of the key then they should go to posting him down low.
Defensively, although it might sound crazy, force Lillard into shooting the long threes. He shot 12-21 but 4-12 from downtown. Jokic and company has to do a better job of keeping Kanter off the offensive board. Defensive rebounding could be the difference in the game.
The x-factor for the Trail Blazers is Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu was basically nonexistent in the first game. Most times to get a player going, you run set plays for him to succeed early. This will not only get him going offensively but get him motivated to play defense as well.
The x-factor for the Nuggets is Gary Harris. The 4th-year player had the duty of chasing Lillard in the first game. His nine points was good enough for the win but might not be good enough for Game 2. When Harris gets going early, it usually means trouble for the opposition. Like Aminu, maybe a three-pointer within the first few possessions might be the key.
Prediction- It’s in Denver and the crowd will be electrifying. The Nuggets just have too much firepower for the Trail Blazers. Nuggets win.