Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets (Game 1): Predictions, Odds and Roster Notes

How to Watch

Where: Pepsi Center in Denver, CO, USA

When: Monday, April 29th at 10:30pm EST

How (TV): TNT

Portland Trail Blazers (Away)

Head Coach: Terry Stotts {All-Time: 440-417 | ATL, MIL, POR}

Season Record: 53-29, 3rd in West

Projected Starting Five: (G) Damian Lillard – (G) CJ McCollum – (F) Al-Farouq Aminu – (F) Maurice Harkless – (C) Enes Kanter

Top Performers (2019 Playoff Stats)

  • G Damian Lillard – 39.8 MPG | 33.0 PPG | 6.0 APG | .481 3P%
  • G CJ McCollum – 26.6 MPG | 24.4 PPG | 5.4 RPG | .447 3P%
  • C Enes Kanter – 29.4 MPG | 13.2 PPG | 10.2 RPG | .574 FG%

The Portland Trail Blazers have reached the second round for the third time in six years, after eliminating the Oklahoma City Thunder in the previous round. The Blazers bounced OKC in five games, clinching the series with a 118-115 win on April 23rd.

Damian Lillard capped off his 50 point performance in that game with a buzzer-beating three to win the series. Lillard was red hot from behind the arc, hitting 10 of his 18 attempts. Fellow starters Maurice Harkless and CJ McCollum each added 17 points in the win.

Portland’s defensive play against the Thunder was admirable, as they limited All-Stars Paul George and Russell Westbrook to 31.9% and 32.4% shooting from three-point range, respectively.

Denver Nuggets (Home)

Head Coach: Mike Malone {All-Time: 212-222 | SAC, DEN}

Season Record: 54-28, 2nd in West

Projected Starting Five: (G) Gary Harris – (G) Jamal Murray – (F) Torrey Craig – (F) Paul Millsap – (C) Nikola Jokic

Top Performers (2019 Playoff Stats)

  • C Nikola Jokic – 37.3 MPG | 23.1 PPG | 12.1 RPG | 9.1 APG
  • G Jamal Murray – 32.9 MPG | 19.0 PPG | 4.1 APG | .343 3P%
  • G Gary Harris – 34.3 MPG | 14.7 PPG | 467 3P% | .833 FT%

After a decade long drought, the Denver Nuggets finally won a playoff series, knocking out the San Antonio Spurs in seven games with a 90-86 win on Saturday.

Jamal Murray was Denver’s top scorer in Game 7 with 23 points, while Nikola Jokic notched his second triple-double of the series with 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Like Portland’s Game 5 win, the defense was a deciding factor in this game, as the Nuggets limited San Antonio’s main scoring options. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan were forced into tough shots all game, leading to a combined 13 for 37 shooting night for the two All-Stars.

What’s At Stake?

These two teams are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1986 when the Nuggets eliminated the Trail Blazers in the first round. During the regular season, the Nuggets won three out of four meetings between the two teams.

The Trail Blazers have not won Game 1 in a conference semi-final since 2000 when they eliminated the Utah Jazz in five games before losing to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals.

The Nuggets are making just their ninth appearance in the second round of the playoffs in their 42 years of existence. So far, the franchise is 4-4 in second round opening games.

Portland Has Been Deadly From Deep

After ranking ninth in the NBA in three-point percentage during the regular season, the Trail Blazers have kept their foot on the gas pedal in the playoffs. Terry Stotts’ squad led all playoff teams during the first round in that same category at 40.5% while ranking second in made threes with 12.8 makes per game. That mark was only surpassed by the Houston Rockets who made 15.4 per game, largely due to a trigger happy James Harden.

The Nuggets Are Valuing Every Possession

Throughout the regular season, the Nuggets have focused on making the most out of every offensive possession by limiting turnovers and making smart passes. Mike Malone’s team was successful in their pursuit of this goal by ranking second in the league in assists and eighth in turnovers.

That emphasis has extended into the postseason, where Denver currently ranks fourth among playoff teams in assists per game while ranking second in turnovers per game behind the now eliminated Spurs at a measly 9.1. Having Nikola Jokic as their offensive fulcrum has played a big role in their offensive efficiency, as his basketball IQ and court vision have set his team up for success.

Portland Trail Blazers Roster Notes

C Jusuf Nurkic – 25 Mar 2019 – Out For Season (Leg Fracture) – Nurkic will not return in the playoffs and could possibly miss all of next season with a compound fracture in his left leg.

Denver Nuggets Roster Notes

F Michael Porter – 21 Mar 2019 – Out (Back) – Porter Jr. has been participating in light contact 3-on-3 drills in practice, but is still a long shot to return this year according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic.

X-Factors: CJ McCollum vs Jamal Murray

The secondary scoring options will be the focus of Game 1, as Portland’s CJ McCollum will face off against Denver’s Jamal Murray. Each of these combo guards is capable of going off and willing their teams to victory, given their ability to light it up from long range.

CJ McCollum

Shooting Guard | 6-3, 190lb (190cm, 86kg) | Lehigh | Exp. 5 Years

21.0 PPG | 3.0 APG | 4.0 RPG | 0.8 SPG | 0.4 BPG | 1.5 TOV | .459 FG% | .375 3P%

Despite being a part of what many may argue to be the second best backcourt in the league, CJ McCollum does not get the recognition he deserves. Still awaiting his first All-Star game berth after four seasons averaging 20 plus points, the former Lehigh star has been one of the best three-point shooters in the league the last few seasons.

McCollum’s performance against Denver this season has been a mixed bag, as he turned in a woeful nine-point outing on 3 of 13 shooting in Portland’s lone win on April 7th. On the flip side, he dropped 33 points on the Nuggets earlier in the season on November 30th, despite missing all four of his three-point attempts.

Jamal Murray

Point Guard/Shooting Guard | 6-4, 207lb (193cm, 93kg) | Kentucky | Exp. 2 Years

18.2 PPG | 4.8 APG | 4.2 RPG | 0.9 SPG | 0.4 BPG | 2.1 TOV | .437 FG% | .367 3P%

After going through some expected growing pains in his first career playoff round, Jamal Murray has proven to be a cog that Denver can lean on in the playoffs. Each of the Nuggets’ wins over San Antonio came when Murray scored 23 or more points, as the Canadian has been the perfect compliment to All-Star center, Nikola Jokic.

Murray will be tested in this series, as he has achieved modest results against the Portland Trail Blazers, averaging 14.4 points while making threes at a 32.7% clip in 11 career games. This season, Murray played in three of the four meetings, all of them wins, with two 20+ point outings along with a 10 point dud where he shot 2 for 13 from the field.

Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Predictions and Odds

The teams in this series are evenly matched given their combination of young scoring talent and veteran presence. Denver is a tough place to win in on the road, which should help the Nuggets. However, Portland has more playoff experience to fall back on which could tip the scales in this game as well as the series.

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