The Portland Trail Blazers came into Denver for Game 1 on a mission, and although Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. put up huge numbers offensively for the Denver Nuggets, it wasn't enough against a balanced attack from Portland. Damian Lillard led the way with 34 points and got a slew of help from the likes of CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Carmelo Anthony and Anfernee Simons. It's not a guarantee that the Blazers are going to get that much support from role players throughout this series, but they were able to capitalize on it in Game 1.
For Denver, despite being down Jamal Murray and WIll Barton, as the No. 3 seed they're still expected to win this series. We'll have to see how they respond after getting trounced 123-109. Here's everything you need to know ahead of Game 2.
(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Portland Trail Blazers
- Date: Monday, May 24 | Time: 10 p.m. ET
- Location: Ball Arena -- Denver, Colorado
- TV: TNT | Live stream: TNT
- Odds: POR +100; DEN -120 | O/U: 227 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
Nuggets: Jokic is going to need more help outside of Porter Jr. to win this series, otherwise Denver might be upset in the first round. Aaron Gordon had a solid outing, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds, but guys like Monte Morris, Austin Rivers, Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green need to step it up. Portland essentially let Jokic get whatever he wanted, daring the other guys around him to beat them, and it worked in their favor as the Nuggets shot just 30 percent from deep. It was always going to be a tough task for this Denver team without its second-best player, and although Barton's return could be on the horizon, these Nuggets role players need to contribute more in the meantime.
Trail Blazers: Portland played a perfect game and got rewarded with a 1-0 series lead. Now they'll need to do it three more times against a Denver team that looked like it was caught off guard by the Blazers. The bottom line is Simons isn't always going to put up 14 points, and Anthony may have some cold shooting nights. It will be interesting to see how the Blazers respond in Game 2 when the Nuggets prepare to fight back. Will their defense hold up? Will Nurkic and Norman Powell continue to be consistent when Denver starts tightening up on Lillard and McCollum? These are things to watch for in the second matchup.
I think the Nuggets even up the series in Game 2. But I don't think this is going to be easy for Denver going forward. There are paths for them to win this series, but Portland looked really strong in Game 1, and without a player like Murray to draw the defense away from Jokic, the road ahead is going to be very bumpy for the Nuggets. Pick: Nuggets -1.5