The Denver Nuggets face the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals Tuesday. After heading into Game 4 in a must-win situation, the Nuggets did just that, eking out a 116-112 win. Denver received scoring from everybody, while the heroic efforts of Damian Lillard were not enough to give the Trail Blazers a commanding 3-1 series lead.
A balanced attack
The Nuggets managed to execute a game plan that was effective both offensively and defensively. In doing so, they did just enough to stop the Portland team that has been on a roll as of late. In the team’s last game, Denver managed to get scoring from everybody. Leading the way was guard Jamal Murray. He had 34 points, five rebounds, and four assists in a 38-minute effort. He was truly the offensive catalyst.
One of the players who has been perhaps the best all-around player for Denver is Nikola Jokić. He had 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists in 38 minutes of action in Game 5. He truly set the tone for what Denver wanted to do both on the offensive glass and fueled their offensive attack. Paul Milsap is another player whose efforts should not get overlooked. In Game 5, he had 21 points and 10 rebounds in 41 minutes of play. He truly provided that inside presence needed to stop the Trail Blazers’ offensive attack.
Riding The Hot Hands
In contrast to the balance Denver possesses, Portland has also figured out a strategy that works best for them: giving Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum the basketball. They have the ability to put up points in a hurry, and that is exactly what Portland needs if they want to contend with Denver’s explosiveness.
Damian Lillard scored 28 points in Game 5. He was most effective as a playmaker, dishing out seven assists and recording two steals. He also proved to be effective from the free-throw line, going eight-of-11 from the charity stripe. CJ McCollum did his part as well. He scored 29 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field. Going 4-of-8 from behind the arc and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line, he had a balanced scoring attack. Nevertheless, it was not enough for a Portland team that could have closed things out.
Home Sweet Home
Denver is the favorite in this contest and rightfully so. The Pepsi Center has treated them well this season. Denver has posted a 34-7 mark on the year. Portland has struggled on the road this year, going 21-20 during the regular season. They lost Game 1 on the road by a 121-113 score.
Denver would be the safe choice here. With their homecourt advantage, they will be difficult for Portland to stop. Obviously, Portland has firepower of its own on the offensive side of the basketball, but the Nuggets should be able to counteract that. Particularly, their presence inside the paint with Jokic should be enough to keep the Portland offensive attack at bay. Yes, Portland can beat you from deep, but as long as they defend the perimeter, Denver should be okay.