The two seed vs three seed series in the West has the look of a series that could lead to some offensive fireworks. Both teams are ranked in the top-six in offensive rating (Portland: 3rd, Denver: 6th).
The most intriguing part of this series in my opinion is that the Nuggets are the best team in the league in terms of defending the three-pointer, while the Blazers are a top-10 three-point shooting team in terms of percentage and on top of that, C.J. McCollum shot the ball really well in the first round from three (44.7%) and Damian Lillard is playing as well as anyone this postseason along with Kevin Durant, and that includes him shooting 48.1% from distance in the first round and making ten threes in the closeout game five against Oklahoma City, including the series-clinching 37-footer.
On top of that, rebounding is going to be huge in this series. Both teams are ranked very highly in rebounding, including being tied at the top of the league in offensive rebounding percentage and they are 8th and 9th in defensive rebounding percentage.
These two teams just have so many similarities in terms of their ratings and there really aren’t any distinct advantages that I see.
Denver has been the better defensive team than Portland all season, but one thing that should be concerning for Denver is that the Spurs guards gave them some issues throughout the past series and the Portland guards are a good deal better than the Spurs guards are and if the Denver guards can’t keep Lillard and McCollum in front of them it’s hard to see Denver being able to do much in the way of stopping Portland, because that would lead to them getting to the basket and Denver only ranks 21st in the league in two-point percentage defense and if they are able to break down the defense it’ll free up shots for other players on Portland, which is a big wild card because nobody for Portland really shot that well for Portland from three outside of Lillard and McCollum besides Al-Farouq Aminu and Seth Curry. If those shots are there, they will need guys like Moe Harkless and Rodney Hood to shoot better.
For Denver, the guards are also very talented. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray both shot the ball well for them in the first-round, while averaging 19 points and 14.7 points per game respectively. They also have guys like Will Barton, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and Monte Morris that are able to contribute for them on the perimeter.
Make no mistake about it though, if the Nuggets are going to win this series it will come down to how well Nikola Jokic plays. There’s not really anything that Jokic can’t do on the court, but he does have a tendency to not be as aggressive as he needs to be at times and he flashed that during the Spurs series and when he plays like that the Nuggets are much easier to defend, but when he is aggressive it opens up everything for them on offense.
This series has the look of being very perimeter-oriented, but Denver of course has Jokic and they also have Paul Millsap, who can have a big impact on games, while Portland is pretty thin on the front line right now because of course Jusuf Nurkic is out, but Enes Kanter is also dealing with a shoulder injury. Portland hasn’t played since Tuesday so we will have to wait and see how healed up he was able to get that shoulder in the time off. Because outside of him it’s Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard. Both of those guys did some good things in their role in the first-round, but they would be no match for Jokic and Millsap in the event they’re asked to take on a bigger role.
This series could really go either way and I expect for some very fun offensive battles and for this series to go pretty deep. These two teams also know each other pretty well and this series is going to come down to execution during the tight, late-minutes of the game and to how well Lillard and Jokic play.
Game one: Monday in Denver
Game two: Wednesday in Denver
Game three: Friday in Portland
Game four: Sunday in Portland
Game five*: May 7th in Denver
Game six*: May 9th in Portland
Game seven*: May 12th in Denver
(*) = If necessary
Top Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer/USA TODAY Sports