Updated: May 22
A very compelling series here in the West. Two great playmakers headline this matchup as one is in the MVP conversation and the other just wants everyone to respect his team and him. Nikola Jokic, who leads the Denver Nuggets as a MVP candidate this season faces off against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Denver Nuggets managed to grab the 3rd seed in the West over the Los Angeles Clippers in a tiebreaker as they shared the record of 47-25. Before Steph Curry had his month and a half spectacular play, Jokic was the front-runner for MVP of the season. The Joker led the Nuggets in points (26.4), rebounds (10.8), assists (8.3), and steals (1.3). Almost averaging a triple-double this season, The Joker elevated his game farther after losing Jamal Murray for the season with a ACL injury. Michael Porter Jr. stepped up into the second best player role for Denver, averaging 19 points per games and 7.3 rebounds per game. Adding Aaron Gordon in a midseason trade with the Orlando Magic proves another dynamic scorer and depth. How far can The Joker take the Nuggets without Jamal Murray is what everyone will be watching, starting with the Blazers in this series.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland. Trail Blazers. A teams everyone likes to watch to basketball. A team that everyone wants to see do something amazing. A team that doesn't have the respect like the Denver Nuggets or the LA Lakers and Clippers. Even the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns at that. The Blazers are fun to watch because of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Carmelo Anthony. Lillard leading the Blazers points (28.8) and assists (7.5) while CJ averaged 23 points per game with Anthony at 13.5 PPG. Trading for Norman Powell from Toronto has been a good addition averaging 17 points per games. The Blazers don't feel respected but to get respect you have to earn it. The respect is there for Dame Dolla and Melo, but the Blazers as a whole no. This series here is an opportunity to gain some from the world.
Keys to The Series
Denver Nuggets: The Joker must continue to be The Joker, dominate this series as the best big man in the game today. Michael Porter Jr. had a good regular season, but needs to be the second best player on the team to add more pressure to the Blazers. The Nuggets are the better team, they just need to show it.
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard needs to be the best player on the floor in this series. CJ McCollum needs to be a problem for the Nuggets as the second best on the Blazers. Carmelo Anthony having one of those series where the buckets looks bigger would put Denver in some trouble. They not gon stop Jokic, they need to limit the others.
Matchups to Watch
Best Player on the Floor: Nikola Jokic versus Damian Lillard
2nd Best Player for their team: Michael Porter Jr. versus CJ McCollum
Aaron Gordon versus Carmelo Anthony