The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers will tip-off for Game 4 of the Western Semifinals on Sunday. The series is currently evened up at 1-1 with Game 3 being played in Portland on Friday. The Trail Blazers are favored at -4 on Friday. Portland finished the regular season with a 32-9 record, while Denver finished with a 20-21 road record.
Denver took Game 1 121-113 at home despite 39 points out of Damian Lillard. Denver road the coat tails of Nikola Jokic (37) and Jamal Murray (23), who combined for 60 of the team’s points in Game 1.
Portland responded with a 97-90 victory over the Nuggets in Game 2 on Wednesday. In a much lower scoring game, Portland’s defense clamped up on the Nuggets. Jokic (16) and Murray (15) combined for just 31 points, which was a big swing following both of their performances in Game 1. Lillard is known for carrying the Trail Blazers to big playoff victories but was held to just 14 points in Game 2. C.J. McCollum led the way with 20 points on 8 of 20 shooting. Rodney Hood (15) and Zach Collins (10) combined for 25 points off the bench for Portland.
That was the first time in this year’s playoffs that Portland was held under 100 points. It was the second time the Trail Blazers held their opponents under 100 points.
Denver had its way with Portland during the regular season. They won the first three matchups until the Trail Blazers salvaged the season series with a victory with three games remaining on the schedule. The Trail Blazers did finish 1-1 against the Nuggets at home during the regular season. Denver defeated Portland by one point in the first matchup and then Portland won the second meeting at home.
What Will the Future Bring?
If you’re Portland, you have to win at least one of these next two games at home in the playoffs. Obviously, they’d like to win both, but the Nuggets had the second-best record in the Western Conference for a reason.
Both teams have a player the injury report heading into Game 3. Jamal Murray is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury for the Nuggets. Maurice Harkless is also day-to-day with an undisclosed injury for the Trail Blazers.
Lillard currently ranks third in points per game with 31.1 during the postseason. Jokic ranks eighth with 23.9 points per game. He also ranks top five in rebounds and assists during the playoffs and is a possible triple-double threat anytime he walks out on the court.
The winner of this series will have the pleasure of taking on the winner of the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets series. The Warriors lead that series 2-0. Kevin Durant will be a problem for whoever has to face him, as he currently leads all players in the postseason with 34.2 points per game.
Both the Trail Blazers and Nuggets are more known for their offensive production rather than their defense. We’ll see how things shake out in Game 3 on Friday.