Despite 39 points from Damian Lillard, the Nuggets managed to edge out Portland for a 121-113 victory behind 37 points from Nikola Jokic in Game 1 of the series. Denver took the best punch the Blazers had to offer, but it wasn’t enough to topple the offensive show the Nuggets put on. Game 2 will be played again in Denver, does Portland have the savvy to steal a game on the road before heading home?
 Portland Trail Blazers (0-1) @  Denver Nuggets (1-0)
It wasn’t like Portland lost because they played terribly. In contrast, they shot the ball pretty well as a team to match the Nuggets. What made the biggest difference was how effective Denver’s role players were. Aside from Jokic and Murray, Paul Millsap and Gary Harris had huge contributions to help overpower the Trail Blazers. While they probably won’t play as sharp tonight in Game 2, it’s still hard to see them losing on their home floor to the shorthanded Blazers.
What was made fairly clear in Game 1 is that the Trail Blazers simply don’t have the means to deal with Nikola Jokic without Jusuf Nurkic. Enes Kanter is capable of matching him with his own offensive production, showing up huge with 26 points and 7 rebounds on 11-14 shooting in Game 1. What he can’t do well is defend, allowing Jokic free reign to score and distribute as he pleased. Lillard’s greatness was enough to thwart Oklahoma City, does he have anything to help him against the stellar Nuggets?
- Good shooting from the field at 41-79 (51.9%) as a team in Game 1, but just 11-29 (37.9%) from 3-point range. Only 20 of their 41 baskets were assisted.
- Rodney Hood was surprisingly fantastic in Game 1. He finished with 17 points on 5-10 shooting, including key baskets to help keep the Blazers in the game.
- One thing that really hurt Portland were their turnovers. They had 18 to just 12 from Denver, easily enough to cause a 8 point difference alone.
The Nuggets played great in Game 1 and certainly seemed to outshine Portland. Not only did Jokic play phenomenal with 37 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks on 11-18 shooting, but he got great supplementary contributions from Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, and his partner-in-crime, Jamal Murray. Even though their defense was very active, finishing with 12 steals and 7 blocks as a team, they allowed the Blazers to score 113 points on 52% shooting. They’ll need to improve on finishing their defensive possessions with an actual stop tonight in Game 2.
- The Nuggets shot pretty well from the field at 41-81 (50.6%) and 12-29 (41.4%) from beyond the arc. 22 of their 41 baskets were assisted.
- Paul Millsap was huge for the Nuggets in Game 1. He had 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists and was crucial to keeping the Nuggets offense flowing in the first half.
- Denver really needs to improve their rebounding tonight. They were outrebounded 40-34 last game, including allowing the Blazers to collect 9 offensive rebounds.
Pick: Denver Nuggets -3.5
Portland gave their best effort in Game 1, but even that wasn’t enough to steal a win on the road. This series is when the loss of Jusuf Nurkic becomes most apparent, as his size, skill, and effort would be excellent to match up against Nikola Jokic. Instead, Jokic is unleashed and free to wreak havoc like a bull in a china shop. Portland is 48-37-1 against the spread this season, but this is certainly one of their hardest spreads to beat this year. Your best bet is on Denver to win tonight to take a 2-0 series lead heading back to Portland..