Who will be the MVP of the Trail Blazers – Nuggets series?

Ryan Blackburn: It’s tempting to put Damian Lillard here after an impressive showing against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, but I will stick with Nikola Jokic here. The Nuggets are and should be the favorites of this series. They are dealing with less injuries, possess home court advantage, and their star player has a better matchup than the opposing team’s star player. Lillard is going to have a more difficult time against Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, and Denver’s blitzing defensive scheme than Oklahoma City’s drop or trap coverage. Jokic averaged over 25 points per game (to go along with his normal production approaching a triple double) against the Blazers in the regular season. Now, the Blazers have one less competent defender to throw at him. Jokic may struggle to defend Lillard on pick and rolls in space this series, but the Nuggets should have a better time creating open shots offensively. That leads me to pick Denver’s primary ball handler, Jokic, as the MVP of the series.

Adam: Jokic | Ryan: Jokic | Evan: Jokic | Kayla: | Zach: | Ashley: | Jeremy: Jokic | Vogt: Welsh (Jokic) | Mike: Jokic

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Which Denver Nuggets player will be the biggest x-factor in the series?

Mares: Mason Plumlee is really a stand-in for the entire Denver Nuggets bench. In the first series, Malik Beasley was the only full-time bench player who had a positive point differential and even that statistic fails to tell the extent to which the bench struggled. There were games where it felt like Michael Malone couldn’t afford to leave that unit on the court for any period of time, let alone enough time to give the starters a rest.

Plumlee needs to be better in round 2. The Blazers are weak at the center position so there isn’t anyone that should be able to punish him inside and play him off of the court. And if Plumlee can give you 15-18 minutes per game, that probably means that Jokic can rest for more than 5 or 6 minutes per game, an important factor considering the Nuggets just wrapped up a tough 7-game series.

Adam: Plumlee | Ryan: Kanter | Evan: Harris | Jeremy: Millsap | Vogt: Craig | Mike: Morris

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Which Trail Blazer outside of Damian Lillard scares you the most?

Fiala: Like the Spurs, the Blazers have two greats in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum plus a handful of solid role players. Denver succeeded the most in round one when it was able to shut down San Antonio’s non-stars, even when Aldridge and DeRozan went off. Al-Farouq Aminu is like the Rudy Gay of this series. He’s not always going to be putting up big numbers, but when he’s scoring and knocking down shots (he’s 40% from three this postseason on 4.4 attempts per game) it will give the Blazers a huge boost that could really cause Denver fits.

Adam: McCollum | Ryan: McCollum | Evan: Aminu | Jeremy: McCollum | Vogt: McCollum (Aminu is good but come on) | Mike: McCollum

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True or false: the Nuggets cannot win the series if they lose game one?

Mares: The Nuggets just proved that this one is false. The Nuggets found a way to get a road win in San Antonio in round one despite having not won there in eight years so getting a win in Portland should be doable considering that the Nuggets already have one win there this season and nearly won there a second time despite openly trying to lose.

Adam: False | Ryan: False | Evan: False | Jeremy: False | Vogt: False | Mike: False, but let’s not find out, shall we?

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Who wins game one?

Blackburn: The Blazers. Portland is rested, and while they aren’t necessarily ready given the injury to Jusuf Nurkic and the impairment of Enes Kanter, they are probably closer to ready than Denver is. The Nuggets just won a tough seven game series, the first of their collective time together, and Jokic looked absolutely exhausted midway through the fourth quarter of Game 7. I can’t imagine Denver turns right around and puts their best foot forward just two days later. Portland should take this one.

Adam: Blazers | Ryan: Blazers | Evan: Blazers | Jeremy: Nuggets | Vogt: Nuggets | Mike: Nuggets

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Who wins the series and in how many games?

Vogt: I think just about everyone expects this to go at least 6 games, one way or another. It appears that the national media is leaning towards Portland but I’m sticking with the homer pick. This is a good matchup for Denver. Damian Lillard is going scorched earth right now, but his punking of Russell Westbrook doesn’t change the fact that the Blazers are missing their second best player in Jusuf Nurkic and they don’t match up well with Denver’s best in Nikola Jokic. Denver crossed off a lot of those playoff “firsts” in their seven games with San Antonio. They’ve been tested and they’ve come out on top. I think the confidence sets in and they take this thing in Portland. Nuggets in 6.

Adam: DEN in 7 | Ryan: DEN in 7 | Evan: DEN in 6 |Jeremy: DEN in 6 | Vogt: DEN in 6 | Mike: DEN in 6

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