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Bench Comparison, Guard Play Help Explain Blazers-Nuggets Series

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Dan Devine of The Ringer teases out a quintet of observations about the Western Conference’s “other” playoffs series.

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

While much of the NBA is focused on the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in the Western Conference playoffs, Dan Devine of The Ringer highlighted five interesting aspects of the Portland Trail Blazers - Denver Nuggets side of the bracket. Devine covers Portland’s guards, the superlative play of Denver center Nikola Jokic, and the differences between the supporting casts of both teams.

Devine lifts praise for the resurgent Rodney Hood, instrumental in carrying Portland to their critical, Game 6 victory.

At 6-foot-8 and 206 pounds with a smooth jumper and soft touch inside, Hood has the size and skills to be a matchup nightmare for a Nuggets team stocked with smaller wings. He played a vital role in Portland’s clear attempt to attack Denver barometer Jamal Murray on defense in the post, and proved a much more potent option to do so than the bigger but less offensively gifted Maurice Harkless. Hood also did a number on Nuggets spark plug and former Blazers folk hero Will Barton—Portland scored 30 points on the 22 possessions on which Barton checked Hood in Game 6, according to NBA.com/Stats—while holding his own defensively on the wing. Three months ago, Hood looked like little more than an expiring contract on a dead-end Cavs team. Now, thanks to steadily increasing confidence in his ability to punish mismatches and shoot from the perimeter, the 26-year-old has found himself as perhaps the third-most-important player on a team that’s one win away from the Western Conference finals.

Devine goes on to highlight Zach Collins and Evan Turner, completing the trifecta of unlikely bench heroes for the Blazers. He contrasts them with Denver’s bench, who. despite moments of glory, has disappointed during Nuggets losses.