The Denver Nuggets (47-25) came up short in Game 1 of the series when their firepower was outmatched by the Portland Trail Blazers (42-30). Portland shot 47.5 percent from 3-point range on the night compared to just 30.6 percent for Denver. A major contributor of that low mark was Michael Porter Jr., who went just 1-of-10 on the night after shooting 44.5 percent from downtown during the regular season. 

Denver has lost two straight with both losses coming against Portland, but the team played their starters for just one half of the final regular season game before having an absolute brutal shooting night from outside in Game 1. They should bounce back here, and it will be extremely important for them to get a win before heading back to Portland where they’re 20-16 on the season. 

Portland is playing with house money now. They’re one of the hottest teams in basketball over the last month, and they’re healthy at the exact right time. They’ve gotten a win on the road in the series which means Denver will have to win at least one game on the road in order to take the series while Portland could only win their home games and advance to the second round. 

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (47-25, 25-11 home) vs Portland Trail Blazers (42-30, 22-14 away)

When: 8:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

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 Denver. 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

Does the whistle go both ways?

Denver got blasted from 3-point range, but the more glaring issue was at the free-throw line. Portland took 19 shots at the foul line while Denver took a total of eight, and Jokic was the only player to get to the line for more than two attempts. Star guard Damian Lillard had more free-throw attempts by himself than Denver did as a squad. If the free-throw discrepancy is that intense again, Denver will be in trouble. 

3-point discrepancy

Over their last two games, Portland is a combined 37/83 for a percentage of 44.6. Over that same stretch of two games, Denver is shooting 34.2 percent from downtown with a combined total of 25/73. Portland is above their season average by six percent while Denver is down by three percent. If those two numbers even out even slightly, Denver has a much better chance in this matchup. 

Bench needs to be better

Outside of Monte Morris and a couple of moments from Markus Howard, the bench was extremely lackluster in the first game between these two sides. While Denver’s bench was 2-of-7 from 3-point range, Portland’s duo of Carmelo Anthony and Anfernee Simons were a combined 8-of-13 in their minutes with 32 points in total. Denver’s bench doesn’t have the scorers that they need due to their injuries, but they simply have to be better than they were on Saturday night.