Portland Trail Blazers: 3 Takeaways from Game 2 flop vs Denver Nuggets

Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers Denver Nuggets (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers Denver Nuggets (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic
Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

2. The Trail Blazers have to solve the Jokic pick-and-roll

After recording only one assist in Game 1, the Nuggets made adjustments that allowed Jokic to get his teammates going a little more. Rather than having him face-up from the high post all game, which was super effective in terms of getting Jokic good looks, Denver had him set more screens in Game 2.

Normally, a pick-and-roll is designed to free up the ball-handler. For the Nuggets, they were running actions off Jokic screens to create chaos as the Blazers tried their best to keep Nurkic on the Joker. This led to miscommunication among Portland defenders and ultimately, easy looks sprung for Denver’s shooters and cutters.

While having any Blazer besides Nurk guarding Jokic is a disaster, Portland can’t afford to allow Jokic to play quarterback. When Jokic is carrying the scoring load, his teammates can’t get in rhythm and the superstar center wears down throughout the game.

Denver is running double-screen sets and sending a cutter and a ball-handler through Jokic’s picks to generate confusion. The Blazers will have to study the game tape diligently to find a way to keep Nurk on Jokic while also staying in front of the cutters and ball-handlers.

This is no easy solve, but it’s imperative that Stotts puts his thinking cap on and addresses the Jokic screens. When Jokic is allowed to play game manager and takes 20 shots or less, like he did in Game 2, the Nuggets have an absurd .69 win percentage.

The Blazers need to make sure Jokic does all the work himself the rest of the series.