The Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets have not settled or proved anything in their 2019 NBA Playoffs 2nd round match-up. Both teams have secured 2 wins, one at home and one on the road. All four games have been close with the largest margin of victory being in game two by 8 points won by Portland. This series will resume on Tuesday night, at the Pepsi Center, in Denver where the Nuggets will try to re-establish home-court advantage and take a 3-2 series lead.
In Game 4, it was the Nuggets winning 116-112 on the road to tie this Western Conference series at 2 games apiece. Denver maintained a steady scoring pace throughout game four, never scoring less than 27 points per quarter which they recorded in the 3rd.
The Nuggets got huge contributions from their center and power forward spots, namely Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. Both players scored 21 points and Millsap had a double-double with 10 rebounds. Nikola Jokic had a triple-double recording 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Jamal Murray was the Nuggets star of the game scoring 34 points on a very efficient 50% shooting.
Portland got 29 points from C.J. McCollum, 28 from Damian Lillard, and 19 from Al Farouq Aminu. While the Trail Blazers shot well as a team for the game, 47.6% overall and over 42% from the 3-point arc in game 4, they were a minus 20 as a team. Further, they seemed to fail to find scoring opportunities in the second half especially only scoring 14 points in the 3rd quarter after leading at halftime 63-57 at home.
Denver Nuggets Starters
The Nuggets will start Jamal Murray, Garry Harris, Torrey Craig, Nikola Jokic, and Paul Millsap.
Portland Trail Blazers Starters
Portland will start Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Enes Kanter, Maurice Harkless, and Al-Farouq Aminu.
Expectations and Prediction
In game 4, these two teams were separated by 4 points with Denver taking the win. The only real negative for Portland is that their offence failed them in the 3rd quarter. In today’s game, any team that fails to record more than 14 points in a quarter is going to have to play catch-up. Denver nearly doubled Portland’s 3rd quarter offence with 27 points, erasing a 6 point halftime deficit taking an 84-77 lead into the 4th quarter...
Portland’s +/- of -20 was also a detriment to their hopes of winning game 4. If +/- is about hustling and making positive plays at both ends of the court, Portland's starting 5 were guilty, in game four, of the opposite. All five Portland starters were negative in this category with Aminu being the worst at -15. While 14 turnovers were not horrible, any lackadaisical effort or lack of execution from the Trail Blazers will get punished by a strong defensive Nuggets squad.
The Nuggets only won by 4 points in game 4 to tie the series. While Millsap, Jokic, and Murray had a great time shooting in game 4, the Nuggets' team was not necessarily efficient shooting the basketball making that game closer than it needed to be. The Nuggets’ players collectively shot just 43.5%.
Two things saved the Denver Nuggets. Their free throw shooting was stellar as they got to the line 28 times making 25 freebies. There is also the fact that the Nuggets shot better from the 3-point arc at 44% than they did from the field overall. In game 5, the Nuggets simply need to make shots consistently as they are not a high octane offensive team.
This series has been tough on both teams through the 4 games. With 3 games remaining in the series, the Nuggets reclaim home-court advantage for game 5 and 7, if game 7 is necessary. If the Nuggets can get the performance they got in game 4 from Jamal Murray consistently, the rest of the series could be easy.
As for the Trail Blazers, they cannot afford to have another quarter like the 3rd in game 4. Expect the young Nuggets to protect home-court winning game 5 by 3 possessions.