The Denver Nuggets (48-26), after coming up short in Game 1, put on an impressive performance in Game 2 for a big win over the Portland Trail Blazers (43-301). Despite a 42-point outburst from star point guard Damian Lillard, Portland was unable to keep up in a 21-point loss. MVP center Nikola Jokic didn’t put up 42, but he did have 38 while shooting 15-of-20 from the floor along with 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. 

Game 2 was a huge win for Denver. Falling into an 0-2 isn’t the death sentence that a 0-3 deficit is, but only 27 teams of the 426 that have ever fallen into an 0-2 hole have ever come back from it. Only 21 of those teams were in a seven-game series. Now, tied up at one game a piece, Denver has the chance to recapture home-court advantage with a win in Game 3 or 4 on the road. 

Portland has pulled off the “hard” part of this series. They won a game on the road, and they can win the series in six games if they only win their home games from here on out. However, Lillard is going to need a little bit more help. C.J. McCollum shot 75 percent from the floor with 21 points, but he and Norman Powell were the only other two Blazers to score in double figures while Denver had six in double figures and seven with nine or more.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (48-26, 22-14 away) vs Portland Trail Blazers (43-31, 20-16 home)

When: 8:30 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

Free-Throw Balance

In Game 1, Denver shot 11 fewer free throws than the Blazers despite only being called for four more fouls. In Game 2, the discrepancy evened out to the tune 30 free throws for Denver and 28 for Portland. If you ask a Blazers’ fan, they’d tell you that Denver got every call in the world in Game 2. Despite that, they still only shot two more free throws. If the whistles are less friendly, as they have been for much of the season for Denver, will that mess up their scoring pace?

Foul trouble on the bigs

In Game 1, Jusuf Nurkic was called for four fouls. In Game 2, he was called for six and fouled out while Carmelo Anthony was called for five. If Jokic is getting physical early and puts Nurkic into foul trouble, that complicates Portland’s defense in a big way. Game 2 also got rather chippy, and Nurkic could be looking to send a message early which could get him in trouble. Meanwhile, Jokic needs to be careful himself in the foul department. He received five fouls in Game 2, including four in the third quarter before arguing with the referee which caught a technical foul. The team can’t afford to lose him, and he has to be aware of that at all times. 

Slowing down the guards

Through two games, Portland’s three guards of Lillard, McCollum and Powell are averaging 71.5 points with shooting splits of .453/.381/.849, and that 3-point mark is being weighed down heavily by Powell, who is just 14.3 percent from downtown through two games. Lillard is going to score, and he showed in Game 2 just how quickly he heats up. Whatever Michael Malone comes out with in Game 3 has to be a wet blanket to slow down this trio.