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NBA Playoffs: Trail Blazers at Nuggets Game 5 Preview

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After a disappointing Game 4, the Blazers travel to Denver to try and steal back home-court advantage.

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NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets (Series 2-2)

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

The Portland Trail Blazers were left wondering what might have been after losing 116-112 to the Denver Nuggets in Game 4. A disastrous third quarter where Portland could manage only 14 points changed the momentum of the game and turned out to be too much to overcome. Key bombs from deep and steely free throw shooting from Denver in the fourth quarter sealed the game for the visitors.

With the series tied at 2-2, it comes down to the next three games. Whichever team can win two out of three will advance. It all feels delicately balanced right now, but the winner of Game 5 will surely be the overwhelming favorite to move on to the next round.

Adjustments for Game 5

  • Turnovers. In their Game 1 loss, the Blazers committed 18 turnovers to the Nuggets’ 12. In their Game 4 loss, Denver had 8 turnovers to the Blazers’ 14. When the Blazers take care of the ball as well as Denver, they’ve won. When the Blazers have turned over the ball, Denver is making them pay. So far in the series, Denver is averaging 17 points off of turnovers compared to 11.3 for the Blazers. Portland simply needs to clean things up in this area if they want to win Game 5.
  • Free throws. During the regular season, Portland had the second-best free throw percentage in the NBA at 81.4%. Against Denver, they’ve shot below that mark every game so far. Some of those misses have come from unexpected places, for example Damian Lillard missing three in Game 4. As Bill Schonely said, “you’ve got to make your free throws.”
  • Worry less about the officiating. Blazers fans have lots of questions about officiating this series, especially after Game 4. As fans, we can be excused for dwelling on those injustices, real or perceived. The players on the other hand simply don’t have that luxury. At times it seemed that the Blazers were more worried about the calls than doing what needed to be done. Portland needs to play the game the way they know the game needs to be played and let the chips fall where they may. Keeping concentration is an absolute must for the Blazers in Game 5.

What they’re saying

Royce Young of ESPN writes about what Denver is doing to slow down Damian Lillard:

Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. has been at the heart of Denver’s defensive turnaround this season, and his focus entering the series against the Blazers wasn’t too complicated. He saw the things that gave the Thunder problems: Their pickup points were too low, their bigs weren’t up enough, and they weren’t into the ball enough, which let Lillard reject screens.

”He had a lot of open space in that series, we felt, and that’s not a knock on OKC. We just wanted to be a little bit better,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. “We didn’t want him getting 33 a night.”

Mark Kiszla of Denver Post writes about the mood among the Denver players:

As television cameras engulfed Paul Millsap and Will Barton pulled on a shirt adorned with sailboats and players bathed in lotion because there was no soap to be found in the showers, there was no hint of emotional or physical fatigue. In fact, the running joke among the Nuggets was a line they repeated to each other in the locker room after staring down trouble in this series:

“Don’t worry about a thing, sweetheart … Sweetheart … Don’t you worry about a thing.”

Our friends at Denver Stiffs are feeling it after a huge Game 4 from the Nuggets. Read Adam Mares to get an idea of just how much:

How? Some say talent, some say luck. I might suggest sorcery. The first tee shirt Denver Stiffs did while I’ve been a writer had a doughy center emblazoned on it next to the words, “Magic Jokic.” Nothing we’ve seen since then counters the idea that Jokic is imbued with some basketball magic, as all of the greats are. It’s not just skill, or talent, but it’s something extra that turns your head when you watch him, and when you watch this team crawl out of the grave of lesser teams. When Murray sinks those free throws or Barton’s game comes out of its own zombie state at just the right moment, enjoy that magic.