Best of the Northwest

The Denver Nuggets defeated the San Antonio Spurs to advance to the Western Conference semifinal. The Nuggets will play host to the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2nd Round of the NBA playoffs.

It felt good leaving his hands, in what Damian Lillard described as “comfortable range” sending the Blazers to the 2nd round in dramatic fashion. It was a familiar sight for Trail Blazer fans to see the deep three pointer go in as time expired, but the implications are much different this time around than when Lillard famously hit his first series ending game winner against the Houston Rockets in 2014 to send them to the second round. They would go on to lose to the NBA champion Spurs in five games that year. The victim of Lillard’s stellar shooting this time around? The Oklahoma City Thunder.

Once again facing a Northwest Division opponent, the Trail Blazers will travel to Denver Monday night to play the Denver Nuggets in game 1 of the second round. The Northwest Division saw 4 teams make the postseason which was the most of any division in the Western Conference. Regular season games provide practice and familiarity with your opponent. The Thunder swept the Blazers 4-0 in the regular season series this year, but as we learned from the playoff series with Oklahoma City (which Portland won 4-1) the regular season isn’t everything. In similar fashion, the Blazers will meet a Nuggets team they played several close games against earlier this regular season.

Lead by Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets space the floor and are excellent at passing the basketball. To beat this team, defense will be a huge key. Portland will of course be without starting center, Jusuf Nurkic as he rehabs from a broken leg, this means once again, players like Enes Kanter and Zach Collins must step up if the Blazers are to take at least one game in Denver and steal home court in the series.

The Nuggets aren’t the only team with a match-up problem, Damian Lillard comes into the series averaging 33.0 points a game. After giving up a lot of production to San Antonio guard Derrick White in the previous round, the Nuggets have to be concerned with the difference Damian can make in each game. The Blazers will look to extend their impressive run, and capitalize on the incredible shot and team effort that sent them to the second round.

Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals is set to start Monday night in Denver at 7:30 PM - on TNT.

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