Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers
Friday 10:30 P.M. ET
Free NBA Pick: Blazers ATS
Best Line Offered: 5Dimes
Portland has been one of the more resilient teams in over the course of the playoffs, and a lot of the reason why they have played well as a team is because of how galvanized they are as a group, playing through multiple injuries as a team. Combine the Blazers togetherness, with the shot making of Damian Lillard, and this team is poised to pull off a second-round upset against the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets might not be as good of a group of shooters as they showed in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series with the Portland Trail Blazers but they’re certainly not as bad as they were in Game 2. The Nuggets were misfiring from every distance as they fell 97-90 to the visiting Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, squaring the series at 1-1 heading into Friday night’s Game 3 in Portland.
Denver shot 50.6 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from 3-point range in a 121-113 victory in Game 1. Shooting at the same hoops on Wednesday, however, the Nuggets hit 34.7 percent (34-for-98) from the field, 20.7 percent from 3-point range (6-for-29) and 61.5 percent from the foul line (16-for-26). In the Nuggets’ four playoff losses this season, including three to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round — they are shooting 30 percent from 3-point range. Malone would like to see a different tactic from his players should they have similar perimeter shooting woes on Friday.
Portland coach Terry Stotts liked his players’ defense on Denver center Nikola Jokic, who was held to 16 points on 7-for-17 shooting. Stotts wasn’t as happy with the Nuggets’ 23 offensive rebounds, including 14 in a frantic fourth quarter. The Blazers have gained home-court advantage, as they play host to the Nuggets in the next two games.
Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is undergoing treatment on his right thigh after aggravating an injury, originally sustained against the Spurs, during Game 2. Murray, who missed the final 53 seconds on Wednesday, is expected to try to play Friday. If Murray is limited in any way, it makes it that much harder for Denver to be able to compete on the road, where Damian Lillard has been a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. Expect the Blazers to cover their four and a half point spread and take a commanding series lead.