The Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets series has the potential to deliver fireworks early and often. On Monday, ESPN’s staff took a deep dive into storylines for each team in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. When it came to Portland and Denver, offense and defensive concerns dominated the conversation.
For the Blazers, ESPN contributor Royce Young raised concerns over Portland’s fluctuating rotations. Young listed the Blazers’ bench as the biggest issue for coach Terry Stotts’ squad heading into the postseason.
The bench. The Blazers adjusted their roster to focus on wing defense, but they still are in search of their best seven or eight players. Their bench has been spotty, with Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony’s minutes expectedly coinciding with dips on the defensive end. But they also need to complement non-Lillard minutes with offense. It’s been a challenge for Portland all season to find stable rotations, and as they head into playoff basketball, coach Terry Stotts will need to find his best lineups on the fly.
ESPN contributor Ohm Youngmisuk explained that Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. are positioned to put up big numbers in the playoffs.
The last time these two faced each other in the playoffs, it took seven games — including a historic 140-137 four-overtime Game 3 — for the Blazers to outlast the Nuggets in the second round in 2019. Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.9 rebounds and 7.7 assists in that series, which was just his second ever. Now he enters this matchup more experienced and as the MVP front-runner. Even though the Nuggets don’t have Murray, they do have Porter, who is primed for his playoff breakout. The Nuggets could use Barton back, but they’ve overcome injuries all season long.
In 61 games this season, Porter averaged 19 points and 7.3 rebounds. From an efficiency standpoint, the third-year forward connected on 54.2 percent of his attempts from the field and 44.5 percent of his three-pointers.
You can read ESPN’s full postseason breakdown by clicking here.