The Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets have played two different types of games to open the Western Conference semifinals. The Nuggets held the home court with a 121-113 victory in Game 1. However, the Trail Blazers bounced back with a 97-90 victory in Game 2. More importantly, the Trail Blazers are heading home for two games beginning Friday night. They have an opportunity to take over the series.
Game 1 ended with a 243 point total. Game 2 finished with a 187 point total. Although the two game scores were separated by 56 points, the pace wasn’t much different in Denver’s home games. For example, the teams played at a 97.6 pace in Game 1. They played at a 93.3 pace in Game 2. Pace just equates to the amount of possessions during a 48 minute game. It doesn’t mean how fast the game is played, either. Therefore, more important factors were at play to make a difference in the first two games.
The shooting difference between Game 1 and Game 2 is astounding. The Blazers connected on 51.9 percent of their field goal attempts in Game 1. Yet, many people think the Nuggets were unstoppable. They shot 50.6 percent from the field during the Game 1 win. However, the Nuggets made 27 of 31 free throws in the victory, giving the illusion of an overwhelming performance.
Meanwhile, Game 2’s shooting performance dropped off immensely. The Nuggets only shot 34.7 percent from the field in Game 2. Yet, they were a couple of awkward possessions away from stealing another home game with a valiant comeback. Instead, the Nuggets continued to struggle from 3-point range down the stretch. The Trail Blazers also fell off in the shooting category. They made 42.4 percent of their shots in Game 2, evening the series at one game apiece.
Despite the lower score, the game presented plenty of high energy moments. Shots were just not falling for both teams. For example, Damian Lillard was 5 of 17 from the field in Game 2 and the Blazers won. C.J. McCollum was 8 of 20 from the field and we think he an amazing performance. Why? Because everything is relative. More importantly, each game presents a different set of circumstances.
When it comes to Game 3, Lillard and company may put it altogether. The Blazers have a chance to keep home court. They won all three home games in the first-round. If they protect home court, the worst-case scenario presents a Game 6 closeout game for the Trail Blazers.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets have the ability to win on the road. They’ll need Nikola Jokic to have a big day. He is so important to the Nuggets’ offense, a simple 16-point, 14-rebound and 7-assist game is looked upon as a lackluster performance. Those were the numbers Jokic put up in Game 2. Yet, if the rest of the Nuggets shot the ball better, we would be having an entirely different conversation.
Overall, the Nuggets are shooting 31 percent from 3-point range in the series. They are 18 of 58 in two games. Interestingly enough, the Nuggets attempted 29 3-pointers in each game. However, they only made six 3-pointers in Game 2. Therefore, style of play didn’t change. It was their ability to shoot. As a result, we probably won’t see many adjustments for Game 3.
The Trail Blazers are shooting 20 of 58 from 3-point range. Both teams have taken the same amount of shots from beyond the arc in each game. Although their 34.5 percent clip is slightly higher than the Nuggets, the Trail Blazers aren’t lighting up the defense from deep. Can they have an explosive moment in Game 3?
The Nuggets are up by a single point in scoring differential. Four of the quarters have been decided by 3 points or less. The Nuggets won the third quarter in Game 1 by 6 points. They won the fourth quarter in Game 4 by 7 points. The Trailblazers won the second quarter in Game 2 by 10 points. It is the only double digit quarter differential so far. They also won the first quarter of Game 2 by 5 points. As a result, the Trail Blazers had a 15-point halftime lead in Game 2.
The Trail Blazers are a 4.5 point favorite in Game 3. The over is set at 215.5 points. Tip off scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET.