While Warriors-Rockets may be garnering most of the attention on the Western Conference side of the NBA playoffs, let’s not forget about the other series featuring a pair of Northwest Division rivals. The Denver Nuggets got off to a 1-0 series lead with a 121-113 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, and the two teams will square off in the Mile-High City for Game 2 tonight.
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2019 ATS Home
2019 ATS Away
2019 O/U Home
2019 O/U Away
The Damian Lillard Show
The Blazers’ playoff run has been defined by the play of Damian Lillard. The team’s All-Star point guard has been true to form during the postseason thus far, and his iconic series-clinching three-pointer that ousted the Thunder in the last round won’t soon be forgotten.
It wasn’t enough to notch a win in Game 1, but Lillard still finished with a game-high 39 points the other night. Lillard shot a blistering 57% from the field, but he didn’t get a whole lot of help. Other than Enes Kanter, who scored 26 points, nobody on the Portland side was all that effective offensively.
Lillard’s overall shooting was good, but he also committed six turnovers and missed eight of his twelve looks from long range. With Kanter continuing to battle through a shoulder injury, the Blazers are going to need CJ McCollum and others to step things up. McCollum was held to just 16 points on 7-17 shooting in a largely forgettable outing.
Lillard may have no choice but to take on added responsibility himself. He jacked 21 shots in addition to 13 free throws in Game 1, but he may need to inch closer to 30 shot attempts tonight if Portland has any hope of pulling the upset.
The Blazers’ strategy of trying to stick Kanter on Nikola Jokic failed miserably in Game 1, so it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of adjustments Terry Stotts makes ahead of Game 2. Could we see more minutes for guys like Meyers Leonard or Zach Collins with Portland trying anything they can to slow Jokic?
While Lillard has made headlines, the playoffs have also been a coming-out party for Nikola Jokic. Most NBA fans were already aware of Jokic, but Denver’s lack of national television exposure during the regular season means most fans likely didn’t get much of a chance to see him play.
Jokic dominated Game 1, finishing with a well-rounded line of 37 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 41 minutes of work. Through eight playoff games, the big man is averaging 24.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.5 steals and nearly a block per game. He’s also shooting better than 37% from deep and nearly 91% from the free-throw line.
Jusuf Nurkic was Portland’s best chance at trying to contain Jokic, but with him out for the season, I’m not sure how the Blazers are planning to stop him. He can essentially get to wherever he wants, and his touch is deft enough to score even from difficult angles.
The Jokic-Jamal Murray two-man game constantly gave Portland issues in Game 1. Murray contributed 23 points and 8 assists of his own on Monday night,
Vegas likes this one to be close with Denver pegged as a 4-point favorite to take Game 2. Portland is now just 1-4 across their five head-to-head meetings with the Nuggets so far this season, though none of the games to this point have been decided by more than nine points.
The Trail Blazers make for a pretty appealing underdog bet here at +140 on the moneyline. However, until they show that they are actually capable of slowing Jokic down, I have a hard time betting on Portland to win a game in Denver. Betting on the favorites obviously isn’t as profitable at minus odds, but this is just a matchup that bodes well for the Nuggets all around.
I like Jokic to lead the Nuggets to a 2-0 series lead tonight. So, give me Denver to win outright and cover the 4-point spread at -110.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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