clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Preview: Tied 2-2, Nuggets take on Trail Blazers in crucial Game 5

New, comments

Good thing the Nuggets are back at Pepsi Center.

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

My, how the tables turned in Game 4.

Down 2-1 in the series against the Portland Trail Blazers after a loss in a classic Game 3 that lasted four overtimes, the Denver Nuggets recovered to even the series at two apiece. It took strong efforts from Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, a couple of key three-pointers from Will Barton, and a pedestrian performance from superstar Damian Lillard to make it happen. Still, that has been the story of these Nuggets: they never quit.

Many thought losing in quadruple overtime would be the straw that broke the Nuggets’ season. I was concerned myself. How does anyone bounce back from that mental toll? How does Jokic put up a triple double 40 hours after finishing a game in which he played 65 minutes? How does Murray make this shot to kick off Denver’s scoring?

They just do. The Nuggets just respond.

Now, they have an opportunity to retake control of this series. They lost Game 2 at home due to some poor jump shooting. They can’t have those same problems in Game 5 if they want to go up 3-2 in this series. Jokic and Murray can do some incredible things offensively when the floor is properly spaced. If the Blazers trust that the Nuggets will hit their outside shots, then those two should continue to add to their playoff resume.

The Basics

Who: Portland Trail Blazers (2-2) at Denver Nuggets (2-2)

When: 8:30 PM MST

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: TNT, TNTdrama.com, the TNT app, Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Radio 92.5

Rival Blog: Blazer’s Edge

Projected Matchups

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Trail Blazers Advantage
Position Nuggets Trail Blazers Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Damian Lillard Blazers
SG Gary Harris CJ McCollum Blazers
SF Torrey Craig Maurice Harkless Even
PF Paul Millsap Al-Farouq Aminu Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Enes Kanter Nuggets
Bench Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Will Barton, Mason Plumlee Seth Curry, Rodney Hood, Evan Turner, Zach Collins, Meyers Leonard Blazers

Injuries: Michael Porter Jr. - out (back), Jusuf Nurkic - out (leg)

Key Matchup: Gary Harris vs CJ McCollum

CJ McCollum has been dynamite this playoff series as the second option to Damian Lillard. Sometimes, he serves as the first option, initiating the offense frequently. When he’s out there with the bench unit for the Blazers, he sometimes takes a backseat to Seth Curry and Rodney Hood. I wouldn’t expect that much going forward. I bet McCollum takes 25 shots tonight.

Key in stopping him will be Gary Harris. With Torrey Craig in the starting lineup guarding Lillard out of the gate, Harris will start on McCollum. Harris must stay out of foul trouble today after fouling out in Game 3 and picking up five fouls in Game 4. Another way to slow down McCollum offensively is to force him to exert energy on the other end. If Harris gets it going offensively and can approach McCollum’s production, that bodes well for Denver.

Key number: Minus-38

That’s the Nuggets plus-minus when Nikola Jokic rests during this series. After breaking down the 30 total minutes Jokic has sat by game, the Nuggets are:

  • Game 1: Minus-8 in 6:31
  • Game 2: Minus-9 in 10:49
  • Game 3: Minus-8 in 3:02
  • Game 4: Minus-13 in 9:30

That is atrocious.

The Nuggets have to figure out how to cover up for the weakness of their bench unit. Mason Plumlee hasn’t answered the bell yet this postseason. Monte Morris has looked like a different, less confident version of himself. The struggles of Will Barton have been well documented, but he seems to finally be pulling himself out of that.

How can the Nuggets survive the minutes without Jokic during the rest of this series? Can they? That seems to be the ultimate question.

Opening thought: Home court for this reason

It feels like the scenario that played out in Round One is happening again in Round Two. Split the first two games at home. Suffer a demoralizing defeat in Game 3. Win a gut check Game 4. Now all that’s left is to win two of the next three games. The easiest way to do that is to win both games at home, and the Nuggets are primed to do just that. Take care of home court. That’s why you fought so hard in the regular season.

Nuggets fans better be rocking Pepsi Center tonight.