Posted on April 30, 2019, by Travis Pulver
Oddsmakers favored the Denver Nuggets heading into Game One of the Western Conference Finals. It didn’t seem to matter that they struggled to put away the 7-seed San Antonio Spurs or that Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers played so well against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But as it turns out, the oddsmakers do happen to know what they are talking about.
After finishing off the pesky Spurs just a couple nights earlier, the Nuggets got the conference semifinals off to a solid start with a 121-113 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
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“Saturday night, an emotional high, winning a Game 7, that was part of my biggest concern about tonight,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said, via ESPN. “Obviously you’re worried about guarding them but how would we react from that emotional hangover? I thought our guys did a pretty good job.”
Denver got another great game out of Nikola Jokic who led the way with 37 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. Jamal Murray gave him a nice helping hand with 23 points and eight assists followed by Paul Millsap with 19.
But the real star for the Nuggets had to be the defensive pressure they were able to put on Damian Lillard. While he did score 39-points, he needed a game-high 21 shot attempts (making 12 of them) and went a dismal 4-12 from three-point range.
“We just made him uncomfortable,” Jamal Murray said after the game.
Denver got out to an early lead in the first, but the game was close throughout. When the quarter came to an end, the score was tied up at 32-32. But in the second, it was Portland that led most of the way. However, as the quarter came to a close, Denver regained control of the game and took a three-point lead into halftime, 58-55.
The third quarter got off to a competitive start, but the Nuggets were able to gain control a few minutes in. Following a 25-foot three-pointer by Torrey Craig, Denver led by ten, 73-63, barely four minutes into the quarter.
Portland struggled to close the gap and was only able to narrow it down to nine points, 93-84, entering the fourth. They were able to get within five early in the quarter, but never truly threatened to get back in the game.
Seth Curry closed out the scoring with a late free throw.
Enes Kanter was able to make his return after separating his shoulder against the Thunder in Game Five. He had a good night hitting 11 of 14 shot attempts for 26 points. C.J. McCollum chipped in 16.
But other than Rodney Hood’s 17 points, the Trail Blazers got almost nothing from their role players and bench. While the four other guys that played off the bench combined for 11 points, the other two starters, Al Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless, combined for four points.
Portland will have to get the rest of the team involved going forward if they are going to win. They will get their next chance Wednesday night in Game Two in Denver.