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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers series preview

The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers will meet in the Conference Semifinals, each looking to get back to the Conference Finals for the first time in over a decade. The Nuggets last reached the Western Conference Finals in 2009 while the Blazers haven't been there since 2000.

NBA.com is your destination for complete coverage of every series from now through the end of the NBA Finals.

Series Schedule

The series will begin on Monday in Denver. All times are Eastern Time.

  • Game 1 - Monday, 4/29 at Denver, 10:30 p.m.
  • Game 2 - Wednesday, 5/1 at Denver, 9:00 p.m.
  • Game 3 - Friday, 5/3 at Portland, 10:30 p.m.
  • Game 4 - Sunday, 5/5 at Portland, 7:00 p.m.
  • Game 5 (if necessary) - 5/7 at Denver
  • Game 6 (if necessary) - 5/9 at Portland
  • Game 7 (if necessary) - 5/12 at Denver

Recapping the season series

Result: Nuggets won 3-1

Best game: January 13 - Nuggets def. Trail Blazers, 116-113 (box score)

Best performance: Nikola Jokic (January 13) - 40 points, 15-23 FG, 10 rebounds, 8 assists

All four games between these team were close with all decided by fewer than 10 points. All four of them were within five points in the final five minutes and three of them featured at least one lead change in the fourth quarter. The one game that didn't have a lead change in the final period was Denver's 113-112 win back in November in a game that was tied in the final minute and featured a last-second potential game-winner by CJ McCollum that didn't drop.

The best of the games came back on January 13 in a thrilling contest that featured 19 lead changes and 14 ties. Nikola Jokic scored a season-high 40 points while finishing just two assists shy of a triple-double.

Portland's lone win came in the final week of the regular season in a game that Jokic, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap did not play for the Nuggets.

Key storyline: Can anyone stop Damian Lillard?

If there's one player that's truly put his mark on this postseason, it's Damian Lillard who uncorked 50 points in Portland's series-clinching win in the 1st Round including a 37-foot dagger at the buzzer that will go down as one of the most memorable shots in NBA postseason history.

Perhaps the most impressive part of that shot is that it came in a one-on-one setting against Paul George, one of the league's truly elite perimeter defenders.

Denver has quite the task in trying to slow down Lillard who torched Oklahoma City for 33.0 points per game on 46.1 percent shooting including 48.1 percent from beyond the arc. He's on a roll and enters this series with a swagger that could be tought to stymie.

Although defence is certainly not Denver's calling card, the Nuggets were able to successfully contain Portland's superstar guard in the regular season as he averaged just 21.3 points per game on 37.1 percent shooting.

Expect Gary Harris and Torrey Craig to get the first two cracks at guarding Lillard. In the April 5 meeting which is the last time they met at full strength, Harris and Craig combined to hold him to 2-8 shooting when matched up against the All-NBA playmaker.

Three Players to Watch

Nikola Jokic

vs. Portland in 2018-19 (three games): 25.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 8.0 APG

The Nuggets won all three games that Jokic played in against the Blazers this season and he was excellent, shooting 62.0 percent from the field while nearly averaging a triple-double. He could be a major mismatch for a Portland team without starting centre Jusuf Nurkic. Enes Kanter will be challenged to defend at a high level as Jokic is a master tactician and among the league's smartest players.

CJ McCollum

vs. Denver in 2018-19 (three games): 16.3 points (62.8 FG%), 9.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 6.3 turnovers

McCollum played in three of the four contests against the Nuggets this season. His first game against Denver was one of his best performances this season - McCollum destroyed the Nuggets in Portland for 33 points but the Trail Blazers still lost by one. He scored a pedestrian 18 points in the second meeting resulting in a loss and ironically enough, one of his worst performances of the season where he scored nine points in his final meeting with Denver, resulted in a win.

Nine points likely won't get the job done in any game this series as his offensive presence will be called upon with the increased attention to his backcourt-mate Lillard.

Jamal Murray

vs. Portland in 2018-19 (three games): 19.0 PPG, 39.1 FG pct, 5.3 APG

The first two games of Denver's 1st Round series showcased the streaky nature of Murray's game which has been a story all season long.

In Game 1, Murray shot just 8-24 while missing all six of his 3-point attempts. He also failed to record an assist on 73 touches.

In Game 2, Murray went 0-8 from the field over the first three quarter before exploding for 21 points on 8-9 shooting in the fourth quarter to almost single-handedly lift the Nuggets to a season-saving win.

Going up against Portland's high-octane backcourt, Murray will feel pressure to keep up with Lillard and McCollum. Which version of Murray shows up could go a long way towards determining who emerges on top.

Fast Facts

- In 2015, the Trail Blazers traded Will Barton to the Nuggets for a deal headlined by Aaron Afflalo. That is one of two trades that occurred between these teams that still have an impact on their current rosters. The other being...

- At the 2017 trade deadline, the Nuggets opted to trade Jusuf Nurkic (instead of Nikola Jokic) and a first round pick to the Trail Blazers for Mason Plumlee, cash and a second round pick.

- This is the third playoff series between the Nuggets and Blazers. In 1977 Portland defeated Denver in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals. In 1986 the Nuggets got revenge, beating the Blazers in four games (five-game series) in the first round of the playoffs.

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