Portland Trail Blazers (42-30) vs. Denver Nuggets (47-25)
Austin Rivers is on “Wanted” posters all over Oregon. The Portland Trail Blazers fell at home in front of their beloved fans on Thursday by failing to make their shots while watching Rivers hit every imaginable three in the last quarter. After being up 1-0, the Blazers now find themselves behind in this series with one more game at the Moda Center before both teams return to Denver.
Saturday, May 29 - 1 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, TNT, or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out)
Nuggets injuries: Jamal Murray (out), PJ Dozier (out), Will Barton (out)
SBN Affiliate: Denver Stiffs
What To Watch For
- Jusuf Nurkic. Nurk is the key to this series. He is the only Blazer capable of slowing down Nikola Jokic and can help this team run a smooth and an efficient offense. He can’t do any of this while sitting on the bench because of foul trouble. The big man has to keep the fouls in check and energy high if the Blazers are going to get this series back on their terms.
- Bench Production. Yes, the Blazers got 17 points from Melo on Thursday night. But they only saw two points light up from Anfernee Simons, Enes Kanter and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. In game two, no Portland bench player registered more than five points. In the Blazers’ game one win, Portland got 34 points from Anthony, Simons and Kanter. Conclusion, Portland needs its bench.
- Austin Rivers. The Blazers should have seen this coming. Rivers has had some big playoff outings in the past, namely during the Los Angeles Clippers’ brief 2015 run. The Nuggets’ late season addition torched Portland in game three, single-handedly burying the Blazers and the 8,000-strong Moda Center crowd.
What Others Are Saying
Mike Malone highlights the uniqueness of his Denver Nuggets team after the Game 3 win, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.
In reflecting on why former castoffs or overlooked players have found success in Denver, Malone cited the environment he’s tried to create in his six years as head coach.
“The ability to empower people is a really powerful thing,” he said. “To give them confidence, to make them feel like they are a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish, to give them a voice.”
Malone said the key is open communication, and showing players that the Nuggets as an organization are invested in them as people and not just players.
Mike Singer of the Denver Post also highlighted Austin Rivers’ motivation before taking to the court on Thursday.
“No, it’s not normal to have that many guys from the get-go accept you,” Rivers said in an emotional postgame press conference. “It was such a warm welcoming here, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. That just boosts your confidence. Coach Malone boosts my confidence. Tim Connelly boosts my confidence. Will Barton, P.J. Dozier, Monte Morris, all these guys, Paul Millsap, JaVale, these guys talked to me throughout the game.
“We are really a team, it’s just a true team,” Rivers said. “It’s fun to play basketball like that. … I’ve never been somewhere where I’ve just fit … not just basketball-wise, but culture-wise I fit.”
Ryan Blackburn at Denver Stiffs gives his review of how Game 3 went down.
It was a very impressive to see the Nuggets respond in the way that they did tonight. The Blazers came out firing early, and the Nuggets immediately responded in that first quarter behind some excellent play from Joker and Aaron Gordon. Denver set the tone that they wouldn’t go quietly into the night, and they basically led wire to wire after that.
Now, the Nuggets are up 2-1 in the series having recaptured home court advantage. Even if they lose Game 4 on Saturday, the Nuggets will still have an opportunity to win two of the next three at home to secure the series. If they win, they go up 3-1 in the series and head back to Denver win an opportunity to win the series on their home floor.