Blazers-Nuggets: X-factors, key matchups, and a prediction

NBA Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
NBA Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) /
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NBA Portland Trail Blazers (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports) /

Portland Trailblazers and Denver Nuggets: Prediction

If I was asked a month ago “who do you think will win the West” I would have picked Denver. The Jokic–Murray combo, to go along with Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, and their incredible depth, made me believe that they could beat any team in the West and destined for the Finals. Without Murray, the Nuggets are a softer three seed that seems ripe for the taking. It’s more of a question if the sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, with their suspect defense, can capitalize on this opportunity.

It’s hard to pick against Damian Lillard, someone that he has always been clutch in close games and has two of the most iconic game-winning buzzer-beaters in recent playoff history. Damian Lillard is always great in the last three minutes of a game – but is Portland good enough, with their subpar defense and lack of depth, to keep the games within reach in the first 45 minutes to even get to “dame time”?

Next. NBA: 5 players with the most to prove heading into the postseason. dark

This series will be terrific display of elite modern offenses. Expect a ton of threes, a ton of dominant scoring runs and absurd numbers posted by both Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard. But I think the Jamal Murray injury has a bigger impact than what many people think, and over the course of a 7-game series the Dame Lillard/CJ McCollum combination might be too much for the Nuggets.

Prediction: Blazers in 7