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Zach Collins’ Defense Arrives in Blazers’ Game 6 Victory

A video breakdown of Zach Collins’ crucial performance in the Trail Blazers’ Game 6 victory over the Nuggets.

Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Six Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Trail Blazers secured a must-win Game 6 result against the Nuggets thanks to stellar contributions from a pair of bench players. Both Zach Collins and Rodney Hood supplemented the output from Portland’s star-studded backcourt to force a Game 7 in the Western Conference Semifinals. Hood supplied the fireworks on offense with his playoffs-best 25-point outburst. On the other end, the Blazers’ second-year big man delivered a solution to the Nuggets’ perplexing post duo of Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap.

Collins, a 21-year-old post player who is still adapting to the NBA, has registered back-to-back 14-point games. Outside of his work in the scoring column, Collins made good on his defense-first reputation with a set of momentum-shifting sequences.

Known for his footwork on defense, it wasn’t a shock to see Collins slide over to help stifle the Nuggets’ attack. On this play, the former Gonzaga standout slides off Mason Plumlee to block Jamal Murray’s attempt at the rim.

In the third quarter, we see Collins return to his patented help defense to block Jokic in the lane (he gets a slight assist from a Millsap shove).

Along with those highlight-worthy plays, Collins gave the Blazers a glimpse at what he can bring to the table in one-on-one matchups. Millsap has supplied the Nuggets with clutch buckets throughout this series. Coach Terry Stotts has turned to Al-Farouq Aminu and Enes Kanter to slow down Denver’s veteran leader at different points. Coupled with Evan Turner’s tenacity, Collins dodged foul trouble and stuck with Millsap in the post.

On this play, Collins avoids Millsap’s shot fake on the perimeter, cuts off the path to the basket and stays vertical when the shot attempt finally comes.

Bothering Millsap is an impressive feat, but frustrating Jokic is on a level of its own. Collins did exactly that with the Blazers protecting a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.

In this sequence, Collins makes a series of excellent moves to force Jokic into a tough spot. He avoids getting stuck on an off-ball screen from Gary Harris, positions himself to cover Murray’s cut and manages to recover to remove the ball from Jokic’s grasp.

Game 7 Outlook

Given his output in Game 6, it is a safe bet that the Blazers will turn to Collins once again in Game 7. The Nuggets will have two days to prepare for Portland’s youngster before taking the court in front of the Pepsi Center crowd on Sunday.

One way to get Collins off the court is foul trouble. In the 2019 NBA Playoffs, Collins’ per 36 foul average sits at a whopping 6.9. For context, Aminu is averaging 3.2 fouls per 36 minutes and Kanter’s rate sits at 3.1 over the same stretch.

If the Blazers lean on Collins early, expect the Nuggets to test the referee’s whistle when attacking the basket.