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NBA Playoffs: Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets Game 3 Preview

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Following a victory over the Nuggets in Denver, the Blazers bring the series home while looking for another win.

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NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets (Series tied 1-1)

May 3, 2019 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (out), Maurice Harkless (questionable)
Nuggets injuries: Michael Porter Jr. (out)
How to watch on TV: ESPN
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Denver Stiffs

The Portland Trail Blazers took Game Two from the Denver Nuggets 97-90 on the back of some clutch offense from CJ McCollum. McCollum scored 20 points alongside six rebounds and six assists. Enes Kanter had 14 points, nine rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Rodney Hood provided a much-needed boost, leading the bench with 15 points. Defense played a key role in the win as the Blazers were able to disrupt Denver’s pick-and-roll offense.

The Nuggets struggled against the Blazers from the outset, though they made a valiant effort for a comeback in the fourth quarter after being down 17 points in the third. Nikola Jokic led the way with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Jamal Murray registered 15 points, three rebounds, and two assists, but suffered a thigh injury late in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Nuggets dominated on the offensive glass, with 23 offensive rebounds for the night.

Adjustments for Game Three

  • Continued development on defense. The Nuggets aren’t always going to be ice-cold from three, and while the Blazers’ perimeter defense was solid all night, it needs to remain that way for the Blazers to take the next game. This extends to securing boards: Zach Collins needs to box out effectively to prevent the Nuggets from getting offensive rebounds.
  • Lillard Time. While everyone else stepped up in Game Two, including the long-lost bench, Damian Lillard has to get hot in Game Three to give the series momentum. Nikola Jokic struggled in Game Two, and the Blazers can’t count on that to continue. If the bench is clicking and Lillard is shooting lights out, Portland can handle Jokic.
  • Focus. The Blazers need to do what they did against the Oklahoma City Thunder: only talk to their own teammates. Tempers flared at times during Game Two, including a scuffle between Murray and Kanter that resulted in offsetting technical fouls. Portland needs to double-down on their focus to win.

What they’re saying

Mike Singer of the Denver Post examines the physical aspects of Game Two, including the altercation late-game altercation:

Malone, who played “peacemaker” during the skirmish and didn’t see any malice upon watching the replay, did concede the rest of the series is going to be physical.

“Listen, both of these teams are trying to get to the Western Conference finals,” Malone said. “It’s gonna be hard fought, it’s gonna be physical, but there’s nothing dirty about that and I respect that.”

Mike Olson of Denver Stiffs explains how consistency is going to play a role in this series for the Nuggets:

Should the Nuggets shooting continue to run hot and cold, odds are good they will find themselves on the outside looking in during this playoff run, whether in this round or the next, as every team they could see from here on out are amazingly capable scorers. Denver has also suffered from other inconsistencies throughout the second half of the regular season and playoffs, sometimes flickering more than a Fourth of July bug zapper. No huge shock there, being the eighth-youngest playoff team in history. Consistency comes through repetition, and two-thirds of the Nuggets regulars now have all of nine playoff games under their belts. There are so many things the nascent Nuggets have to balance during moments they are experiencing for the first time in front of a few million people.

DJ Siddiqi of CBS Sports reports that not only did a scuffle break out between the Nuggets and Blazers, but the fans in Pepsi Center got rough, too:

Pepsi Center isn’t exactly known for having raucous NBA fans, but there is no doubt the emotions from the game carried over into the stands as at least three fans were reportedly ejected for fighting and throwing things.