The Nuggets are a game from the second round of the NBA playoffs, carrying a 3-2 series lead into Portland for Game 6. The Trail Blazers have continued to dominate on the offensive end, but their defense has let them down and spoiled some incredible performances from Damai Lillard. Are there any signs that a turnaround might be coming for Portland, or is it time for this team to begin booking some tee times?
We’ll tell you where to look at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks.
Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Thursday, June 4, 2021 – 8:00 PM ET at Moda Center
This series has given us everything we could have ever hoped for. These teams needed double overtime to help determine who’s got a leg up, and before that the two traded jabs. The Trail Blazers have actually out-scored the Nuggets by 0.9 points per 100 possessions in this series, so what’s helped Denver grab this lead with such fine margins? Well, in short, the Trail Blazers’ defense.
It’s not as if Denver is doing a tremendous job defensively, allowing 122.4 points per 100 possessions through five games. It’s also taken back the rebounding battle after the win in Game 5, grabbing 51.9% of available boards in this series. No, the driving force behind this team has been its ability to score. The Nuggets have overcome the loss of Will Barton and starting point guard Jamal Murray, posting an offensive rating of 130.1 on Tuesday.
Denver has leaned on Nikola Joki heavily in this series and got incredible contributions from unlikely heroes like Facundo Campazzo, Austin Rivers, JaMychal Green and more. The question is now one of how far these guys can take Denver, and whether or not they will stand the test of time in this series. Rivers, in his own right, has shot 48.3% from three this series, giving Denver timely buckets and helping it close games down the stretch.
Is There Anything Left?
Is there anything left in the tank for the Trail Blazers? This offense has given everything it has. And that’s especially true for Damian Lillard, whose insane 55-point performance on Tuesday was wasted in a double overtime loss in Denver. Lillard has now scored 35.6 points per game in these five games, shooting an Austin Rivers-like 47.6% from three. He hit 12 triples in that loss, and might not have anything left to give this team. Portland has been exceptional on offense, but its defense — which has let it down all season long — isn’t backing up the offense the way it needs to.
The Blazers’ role players haven’t been there for Lillard, either. McCollum is coming off a miserable 7-22 shooting night, Carmelo Anthony looks like he has one foot into retirement with some of the bad turnovers and fouls in this series, and Jusuf Nurkic physically isn’t there. The bigman has been arguably the most important player to the Blazers in this series — and all season long — and has fouled out three times now in this series, getting into foul trouble in all but one game. Nurkic never fouled out during the regular season, and matched a career low in fouls per 36 minutes, so it’s been puzzling to see him be absent in so many crucial spots.
Bottom line: Portland’s wasted a great offensive series, and some great games from Lillard. McCollum and Nurkic, for various reasons, have disappeared, and that’s been the deciding factor. In the games McCollum has showed up, and Nurkic has remained on the floor, the Blazers have won. These two must be integral on Thursday.
That brings us to our NBA pick. This series is destined for seven games, and I think the Blazers come out hitting everything from three. We have yet to see an explosion from deep, but as one of the best three-pont shooting teams all season long we can be sure it’s coming eventually. Furthermore, I think it’s pretty unlikely Nurkic gets into foul trouble again, and as long as he can stay on the floor the Blazers should be the better team. If McCollum can do anything here, the Blazers should win handily.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.