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Preview: Nuggets look to be on advantageous side of 3-1 for a change in Game 4

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets beat the Portland Trail Blazers at their own game Thursday. They knocked down 20 threes en route to a 120-115 victory. The Denver defense seemed more physical guarding their guards on the perimeter in Game 3. Portland shot 31% from three and their star Damian Lillard had an off night, shooting 5-16 from deep.

A great story emerged from Denver’s victory. Austin Rivers was a free agent in April awaiting a chance from NBA teams. Fast forward to late May, and he is hitting 4 out of 5 threes on the road, in the 4th quarter in the biggest game of the year.

This series is far from over. A 2-1 advantage is never a guarantee, but Denver did their job reclaiming home-court advantage. It’s doubtful the Blazers will put on the same shooting performance in Game 4. Despite Lillard shooting 5-16 from three, he still dropped 37 points and hit 15 shots. Today might be the toughest game of the season for the Nuggets, but they are hoping to win and be on the pleasant side of a 3-1 lead for once.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (49-26, 23-14 away) vs Portland Trail Blazers (43-32, 20-17 home)

When: 2:00 p.m. MST

Where: Moda Center

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Portland. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Blazer’s Edge

Expected Starting Lineups:

POR: PG Damian Lillard, SG C.J. McCollum, SF Norman Powell, PF Robert Covington, C Jusuf Nurkic

DEN: PG Facundo Campazzo, SG Austin Rivers, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Will Barton, PJ Dozier

Three Things to Watch

Perimeter shooting: Denver had one of their best three-point shooting performances of the year in Game 3. They shot 53% from deep and nearly every player who got minutes made a three. It will be important to compete in that category again today because it is not likely the Blazers struggle like they did on Thursday. Damian Lillard is too good not to find his stroke for consecutive games. If he scored 37 and went 5-16 from three on Thursday, in Game 4 we could see a 50-point performance from him.

Rebounding: Portland was physical on the glass in Game 3. Nurkic grabbed 13 boards, Covington 11, and McCollum 9. Much of those rebounds were offensive which led them to a 24-point advantage in paint scoring 54-30. Nurkic had an impact before he fouled out. He will look to stay out of foul trouble, so Denver must concentrate on boxing him out. Expect the Blazers to be aggressive on missed shots because they can ill afford to lose two at home and go down 3-1.

Keep being physical: Portland committed 24 fouls resulting in 22 made free throws for Denver. The Nuggets lost one at home and came out much more physical in Game 2, Portland is in the same situation today, so I expect them to do the same. I also don’t presume Denver gets annihilated in the paint like that again. Look for them to be physical inside and get Nurkic in foul trouble because when he fouled out it opened up the floor for Denver.