The Portland Trail Blazers have reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000. After an entertaining seven-game battle with the Denver Nuggets, they were able to come away with a franchise-shifting victory. Let’s recap the 4-3 series win by the Trail Blazers in this Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets second-round match up.
Series Recap: Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets
Clash of the Unproven
The failures of last year’s playoffs have been haunting the Trail Blazers all year. On the other side, the Nuggets have been attacked with the “young and inexperienced” tag whenever their name has come up in talks about title contention.
Despite the stigmas surrounding these two teams, they both believe that their regular season success can translate to the postseason.
“Yeah, they are pretty good, but who can they go to down the stretch?” This was a question that many had regarding the Nuggets’ potential postseason success.
Nikola Jokic has obviously been their best player all year, but his unselfish ways had many questioning if he could deliver down the stretch in the playoffs. Jokic must have heard the whispers because he had a sensational postseason, to say the least.
Coming into Game 7, he had averaged 24.8 points, 13 rebounds, and 8.9 assists. Only three other players have posted averages of at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 8.9 assists when playing at least 10 playoff games.
It is still to be seen if Jokic can be the number one option on a championship team, but his skill set and basketball IQ will certainly give Denver hope moving forward.
CJ McCollum Saves The Day
The Nuggets may be a young squad, but that means they had some athletes to throw at the Trail Blazers. Torrey Craig and Gary Harris showed flashes of fantastic perimeter defense against Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
In Game 7, Lillard did not look like himself. He was missing his usual shots throughout the game and wasn’t able to penetrate and draw fouls. He did, however, hit a huge three down the stretch to give the Trail Blazers the cushion they needed.
While Lillard was somewhat struggling, McCollum decided to put the Trail Blazers on his back. The Lehigh University product dropped an astounding 37 points and tallied nine rebounds. Every time the Nuggets would slither back into the game, McCollum would hit a timely mid-range jump shot, infuriating supporters of analytics everywhere.
The Trail Blazers reward for winning the series is moving on to face the juggernaut of the NBA, the Warriors. Kevin Durant‘s health will certainly be a huge topic in the coming days. After suffering a mild calf strain in the last series, it will be interesting to see if he will be able to return for the Western Conference Finals.
The Trail Blazers have also had their own injury trouble, the latest being Rodney Hood, who went down in the Game 7 clash. Not to mention Jusuf Nurkic, who broke his leg and hasn’t been able to contribute during this postseason run. The medical staff will certainly be busy for both teams and other players will have to step up if these players cannot suit up.
For the Nuggets, they have certainly exceeded expectations this season, earning a lot of respect along the way. The future is certainly bright for the Nuggets and it will be interesting to see how they follow up this successful season.
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