Nuggets-Blazers: Three keys to Game 3 |

Nuggets-Blazers: Three keys to Game 3

Mike Singer
The Denver Post
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, rear, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, left, and guard Gary Harris defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 5, 2019, in Denver. The Nuggets won 119-110.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Nikola Jokic.  Denver’s best player caught the same shooting bug that the rest of the team did in Game 2. He missed some close-in shots that he’s accustomed to making, but give the Blazers credit. Big men Enes Kanter and Zach Collins gave Jokic trouble. Collins’ length gave Jokic a different look than he was accustomed to in Game 1, and Portland also sent help when applicable. Jokic had been shooting 50 percent from the field in the playoffs prior to his 7-of-17 showing in Game 2. The fact that the rest of the Nuggets weren’t hitting anything led to the loss. The Nuggets need Jokic to rebound.

Denver’s supporting cast. The Nuggets shot just 6-of-29 from the 3-point line in their Game 2 loss. The combination of Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley went 4-of-19 from long range. The Nuggets need to make the Blazers pay if they’re going to send bodies in Jokic’s direction. It’s exactly what happened in the Game 1 loss against the Spurs. The team went cold, and Jokic’s distribution didn’t matter. Even though the looks were there, Nuggets coach Michael Malone wasn’t pleased that his team settled instead of attacked. Another number indicative of their cold shooting night was their 20 second-chance points. That normally would suffice, but Denver couldn’t capitalize on 23 offensive rebounds. Look for Denver to go to the rim from the start.

Portland’s role players. If you were to hold Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to 34 points on an inefficient shooting night – like the Nuggets did in Game 2 – you’d generally win the game. It was the Blazers’ role players who beat the Nuggets on Wednesday night. Despite his shoulder, Kanter was efficient for the second straight game as was Rodney Hood off the bench. Six Trail Blazers finished with double figures. Yes, Torrey Craig was hampered after getting cracked in the nose, but the Nuggets need more out of Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee and Will Barton. Those three combined for just 13 points, though Barton did snag 11 rebounds.

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