Nikola Jokic & the Nuggets begin their playoff run today. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
- The Denver Nuggets are one-point home favorites over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of their Western Conference first round series Saturday night at the Ball Center
- The Nuggets took two of three games from the Trail Blazers in the regular season
- A breakdown of Trail Blazers-Nuggets and betting advice can be found below
In a rematch from last year’s NBA playoffs – sans bubble – the Portland Trail Blazers visit the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of a Western Conference first round series at 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday at the Ball Center.
The Nuggets beat the Blazers in six games in the first round last summer. That series was played in the bubble at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla,
The sixth-seeded Trail Blazers (42-30) finished strong in the regular season, winning six of their last seven games and 10 of their last 12. Included was a 132-116 home over the Nuggets last Sunday as 8.5-point favorites in the season finale.
The third-seeded Nuggets (47-25) had a three-game winning streak end with that loss. The Nuggets won 30 of their last 40 games after starting the season 17-15.
Trail Blazers vs Nuggets Odds
|Team||Moneyline at FanDuel||Spread||Total|
|Portland Trail Blazers||-102||+1 (-110)||Over 228 (-108)|
|Denver Nuggets||-116||-1 (-110)||Under 228 (-112)|
Odds as of May 22nd
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Guards Make Trail Blazers Go
The backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum leads the Trail Blazers and the duo averaged 51.9 points per game in the regular season.
Lillard’s 28.8 average was third in the NBA. He had a season-high 50 points on March 16th against the New Orleans Pelicans and exceeded 40 points six times and 30 points on 16 occasions.
🔥 @Dame_Lillard drops 32 PTS, 9 AST in 3 quarters! #RipCity pic.twitter.com/AqR7Z3F0qb
— NBA (@NBA) May 6, 2021
Lillard also dished 7.5 assists and grabbed 4.2 rebounds a game. He ranked seventh in the league in assists and had 16 double-doubles.
McCollum had averages of 23.1 points, 4.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds. He had a 40-point game as well as six 30-point games.
The acquisition of Norman Powell at the March 25th trade deadline from the Toronto Raptors gave the Trail Blazers another scoring threat at guard and provided more open looks for Lillard and McCollum. Powell averaged 17.0 points in 27 games for Portland.
NORMAN POWELL WITH A DEEP THREE 😱
This game. pic.twitter.com/miTLRD6bpo
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 14, 2021
Enes Kanter was seventh in the league with 11.0 rebounds a game. He had four games with 20 boards.
Portland was fifth in the NBA in offensive rating with 116.1 points per 100 possessions but 29th in defense at 116.0.
Jokic Mr. Everything for Nuggets
The Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic is considered the favorite for NBA MVP and understandably so. He has an outstanding season, averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists a game while playing in all 72 games.
The 2021 NBA finalists for MVP 🏆
Stephen Curry pic.twitter.com/VaiRUC0nIg
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 20, 2021
Jokic had a 50-point game Feb. 6 against the Sacramento Kings. He also had five games with at least 40 points, 23 games with at least 30 points, a 22-rebound performance Jan. 23 versus the Phoenix Suns and two games with at least 16 assists.
For good measure, Jokic posted 16 triple-doubles.
The Nuggets lost second-leading scorer Jamal Murray to a season-ending knee injury April 12. He had a 21.2 scoring average.
However, Michael Porter Jr. has picked up some of the slack in Murray’s absence, scoring 23.5 points a game over his final 17 games of the season. Porter’s season averages were 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Highest eFG% in a season, min 19 PPG:
68.3% — Wilt Chamberlain
64.6% — Michael Porter Jr
We’ve just seen the 2nd most efficient 19+ PPG season in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/LvDEF5MKFT
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 17, 2021
PJ Dozier (right groin soreness) is out for series and Will Barton (strained right hamstring) is out for Game 1, though the Nuggets are hopeful he will return at some point in the series. Austin Rivers (non-COVID-19 illness) is questionable for Saturday.
The Nuggets’ 117.1 offensive rating was seventh in the league and they stood 12th in defensive rating at 112.1.
Nuggets Won Season Series
While the Trail Blazers won last Sunday, the Nuggets took the season series 2-1.
McCollum led Portland with 24 points and five assists Sunday while Lillard had 22 points and 10 assists and Jusef Nurkic finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Denver got 23 points from seldom-used Markus Howard and 21 from Jokic.
The Nuggets won 111-106 on Feb. 23 at home as six-point favorites behind 41 points from Jokic. Lillard had 25 points and 13 assists for the Trail Blazers.
On April 21 in Portland, the Nuggets edged the Trail Blazers 106-105 at 1.5-point favorites. Jokic and Lillard shared game-high scoring honors with 25 points apiece.
The Nuggets are slight favorites in this one but the Trail Blazers are playing as well as any team in the league.
- Pick: Trail Blazers +1 (-110)
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.