Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets Game 2 Pick
Portland Trail Blazers (57-31 SU, 48-39-1 ATS) vs. Denver Nuggets (59-31 SU, 46-44 ATS)
When: Wednesday, May 1st, 2019 – 9:00 p.m. ET
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
Point Spread: POR +3.5 / DEN -3.5 (MyBookie Sportsbook)
Total: O/U 219
Last Time Out: Denver beat Portland 121-113. The Nuggets lead the series 1-0.
Game Two Rest Advantages:
Monday’s game one was late for this series because of game seven, whee Kyle Cash got the W, between the Spurs and Nuggets this past weekend. This means both teams will get just one day of rest. After a one night breather the Trail Blazers are 40-17 straight up and 33-24 against the spread and he Nuggets are 33-26 straight up and 26-33 against the spread. Still, my lean is on Denver to cover since they play so well at home.
When It Rains, It Pours:
Portland did not play bad in game one, but one area that needs to improve is their low post defense. They allowed Jokic to walk all over them for a whopping 37 points. Now this is not the first time Jokic has dominated the Trail Blazers, as he has been a thorn in Portland’s side all season. In three regular season games, Jokic scored an average of 25.7 points per game. He dropped 37 in game one of this best of seven series. Even when Jokic did not have the ball, the Nuggets still dominated the post-game as Paul Millsap added 19. Between the two, they scored 46.2% of the Nuggets points. This is just two guys mind you. The Denver guards combined for 34. Portland must limit Jokic in any way that they can. This will primarily fall on the shoulders of Enis Kanter. Of course, Jusuf Nurkic would be the guy who could slow down Jokic, but due to his season ending injury, Kanter must step up.
Offensively, the Trail Blazers have the goods. They got 39 from Damien Lillard, as expected, but only 16 from CJ McCollum. We know that McCollum has been much better, averaging 21 points in the regular season and now 23 points in the playoffs. His 7 of 17 (41.2%) shooting performance is less than they expect as he is shooting 44.9% from the field in the playoffs. What does need to improve is the three-point shooting. McCollum alone shot 2 of 7 (28.6%) from behind the arc when he was shooting 42.2% in the playoffs so far. As a team, the Trail Blazers shot 11 of 29 (37.9%) from the three-point line so look for them to try to improve there.
One other player that can provide a spark is Seth Curry. By no means is he his brother, but he needs to have a more prominent role if the Trail Blazers are going to steal a game in Denver. While he is only averaging 5.2 points per game in the playoffs, he has shown his ability to knock down the three. This is not another guy who shoots the three in the 40% range. No, Curry is shooting the long ball at 53.8%. While it may be a small sample size, the Trail Blazers need the boost Curry can provide coming off the bench..
Mile High Start:
Denver did almost everything right in game one, but as the 6th best defense in the league, they cannot allow Portland to run up the scoreboard. The Nuggets offense is not the greatest to say the least, so I expect the defense to be much better in game two. We know Jokic leads the team in virtually every stat, so I want to discuss how the Nuggets will go up 2-0 with guys not named Jokic.
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We can start with Paul Millsap, who is an obvious choice. The Nuggets need his veteran presence and for him to continue playing at the level he did in game one. In three games against the Trail Blazers in the regular season, Millsap averaged 19.3 points per game. Pair this with the likes of Jokic and you have an effective front court. Next up, we have a less obvious choice, but one that can provide the bench scoring for Denver. This is Malik Beasley. Beasley scored an average of 10 points against the Trail Blazers in four regular season meetings, but only provided 9 points in the first game. Imagine if Beasley came off the bench and put up 15 or even 20 points. The Trail Blazers would be in a world of trouble considering they do not have a strong bench to counter. So, I am banking on a Denver bench player to provide a spark and to help the Nuggets control the game and pick up another win.
I have made cases for both teams, but my pick is still Denver. With the spread set at a small -3.5, I like the Nuggets to overpower the Nurkic-less Trail Blazers and pick up a win by a comfortable margin.
Free NBA Pick: Denver Nuggets -3.5
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