After winning a high-scoring Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals by eight points against the Portland Trail Blazers, the young Denver Nuggets dropped a low-scoring Game 2 by seven points (97-90).
Including Game 2, in their four postseason losses so far, the Nuggets have shot 43.3% from the field, 30.0% from beyond the arc, and averaged 14.5 offensive rebounds. However, in their five wins, they have shot 46.6% from the field, 38.7% from long range and only averaged 9.0 offensive rebounds.
As per the script, shots not falling consistently in Game 2 led to their loss.
It was a particularly frustrating night for big man Nikola Jokic, who battled early foul trouble and more double teams, even triple-teams from the Blazers defence, limiting him to just 16 points on the night.
"I think it's not just how they play me," Jokic said post-game. "They were aggressive as a team, as a group. It was a weird game for us. They didn't even play that good, to be honest.
"They can play better than that. It was kind of a weird game where they were more aggressive than we were."
"It was kind of a weird game."- NBA TV (@NBATV) May 2, 2019
Nikola speaks after the Nuggets fall to the Trail Blazers 97-90 at home. #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/mAYc9xM5II
The Nuggets out-rebounded the Blazers 23-7 on the offensive glass, had 13 more shot attempts, yet they still couldn't come away with the win, failing to capitalise down the stretch, which Jokic lamented post-game.
"In the last quarter, we missed a lot of putbacks but still 20-something offensive rebounds is a big number," Jokic added. "We couldn't make shots. In the first half, we had a lot of open wide shots but we just didn't make any of those."
Recording a near triple-double (16 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists), Jokic had a rough shooting game as well, going 7-of-17 from the field (41.2%) and missing his only 3-point attempt.
Speaking on the loss, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone emphasised how the team could have adapted when their shots weren't falling.
"You go 6-of-29 from 3 and at halftime, we were 4-of-20. We got some good looks but I felt in the first half, especially, if you are not making shots, maybe attack the basket, maybe get to the foul line, maybe get to the rim," Malone said.
"We were getting such open looks. I understood our players shooting the shot but when you are not having a night where you are making shots consistently, you got to attack the basket. You got to put pressure on the rim. You got to think attack instead of settle."
The Nuggets were down by as many 17 in the third quarter. Their fourth-quarter rally, during which they grabbed 14 of their 23 offensive rebounds, brought it down to five points with 34.9 seconds remaining but they just couldn't complete the comeback.
Playing their first Conference Semifinals since 2009, the Nuggets will now travel to Portland for Games 3 & 4.