We’re at game three between the Nuggets and the Trail Blazers, with the series split 1-1. The Trail Blazers took the first game, stealing a home game from the Nuggets. Now, the Trail Blazers will look to get one game ahead of this series as they play at home against the Nuggets on Thursday night.
If PG Damian Lillard has another first half as he did on Monday, the Trail Blazers will be in good shape on Thursday. After allowing Damian Lillard to score 32-points in the first half of game two, the Nuggets knew they needed to make an adjustment. In a strange move, they assigned PF Aaron Gordon to guard Damian Lillard, a plan that turned out in favor of the Nuggets.
We aren’t sure whether the Nuggets will stick with that same defensive plan on Thursday, but it’s definitely on the table. Portland comes in as the favored team but only by four points. A relatively small spread, considering the winning margin of game one and game two was over ten points.
Denver made the right, although unconventional, adjustment on Monday
Pitting a power forward against one of the most versatile point guards in the league seems like a bad idea on the surface, but Denver was desperate. PF Aaron Gordon said the words “I got him” and the rest of the evening was history. For the remainder of the game, Damian Lillard only hit one three-pointer.
You’d imagine that the Nuggets coaching staff has gone back to the drawing board and will have a new plan to cover Lillard. However, if that plan backfires as it did on Monday, don’t be surprised to see Gordon covering Lillard again. The only question is can Gordon do it with the same success for an entire game?
If Lillard’s production slows, the surrounding players will need to fill the gap
There’s no arguing that Damian Lillard is one of the best point guards in the league, but even someone of that caliber can’t win games on his own. The Denver Nuggets found a way to negate his impact on Monday, and they’ll try to do the same on Thursday. This is when the surrounding players on Portland’s roster need to step up.
Players like CJ McCollum, Robert Covington, and Jusuf Nurkic will need to fill the gaps left behind if Lillard’s production gets stifled. In their loss on Monday, the problem wasn’t the lack of Lillard’s points; it was that nobody picked up the extra weight. Being able to focus all their attention on Lillard, the Nuggets were able to win.
Best team to pick on Thursday? Portland Trail Blazers -4
Portland will have to find a new way to get Damian Lillard looks at the basket, but they’ll also need to have a game plan in place if that’s not an option. Both of these games have gone OVER the total, and the margin of victory has been over ten points.
Look for Portland’s supporting cast to play a more prominent role in game three, leading them to a victory on Thursday. Take the home team to win this one, Portland Trail Blazers -4.