There was no doubt as to who the hero was at the end of game three for the Portland Trail Blazers: Norman Powell. His impact on the game and its outcome was outsized, and Shaun Powell of NBA.com examines how Powell made the difference when Damian Lillard had a slow afternoon against the Denver Nuggets.
Powell was a whirlwind who chopped up Denver’s defense by constantly attacking, getting high bounce on his jumpers, and issuing some lip service for fun if only because he was truly feeling it. He managed a playoff career-high 29 points on 11-for-15 shots and rushed to the rescue of Damian Lillard, who missed nine of 10 shots in what qualified as the must frustrating playoff game of his career.
According to Shaun Powell, the Blazers have the advantage in the Norman Powell versus Aaron Gordon debate — for the moment.
Of course, come Game 5, the Powell-Gordon roles could swap. Such is basketball, especially in an evenly matched series where adjustments will certainly be made. Still, it’s very possible, aside from Lillard and Nikola Jokic, that one of those two midseason pickups might be the swing vote that gives this series to one team or the other.
The advantage for Powell is his championship pedigree. That ring was earned, not given, when he was one of the major supporting cast members for the 2019 Raptors. He knows big moments, taken big shots, helped win big games. In that sense, Powell is exactly the help Lillard needs to make a reasonable reach for what would be his first NBA Finals trip.
Of course, Norman Powell has some extrinsic motivation, as he is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Powell also has incentive. As an unrestricted free agent, he’s playing for money this summer, and never underestimate a motivated professional player who wants to cash in. In order for the Blazers to justify the trade, they must give Powell what he wants, or close enough. Otherwise, if he signs elsewhere, Portland essentially rented him for a few months and lost Gary Trent Jr. (who’s also facing free agency) in the process.
Shaun Powell concludes by saying we will know who the real winner is of those mid-season trades at the end of the series. Right now, our money is on Norm.