Portland Trail Blazers – Denver Nuggets: 3 defining plays from Game 2

Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Damian Lillard Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Damian Lillard Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /
2 of 4
Portland Trail Blazers Denver Nuggets
Portland Trail Blazers Denver Nuggets /

1. Denver put Nikola Jokic in more playmaking opportunities

In Game 1, the Nuggets centered their attack around superstar center Nikola Jokic and it worked swimmingly for the most part. He ended the first-half with 22 points, mixing in a variety of post moves, mid-range work, and showing off his deep-ball.

Due to Jokic’s offensive brilliance, the Nuggets went into halftime with a three point lead. With him operating mainly out of the high post and searching for his own shot, however, he wore down over time and wasn’t able to get his teammates in rhythm. The MVP favorite was held to just 12 points in the second half and finished the game with just one assist.

Going into Game 2, the Nuggets knew that while Jokic can get a bucket on any given possession, if they’re to win the series, they’ll need the superstar to create offense for his teammates too.

To accomplish this, Denver strayed away from just dumping the ball to the Joker in the high-post. Instead, they used unique sets with a lot of screens to put him in more traditional playmaking opportunities.

In the above clip, Aaron Gordon and Jokic set a double screen for Michael Porter Jr. While Gordon dives to the hoop, Jokic flashes above the arc. Portland’s defenders do a great job staying with their assignment, but in the fray, Jokic was able to separate himself from Nurkic while Gordon gained position on the smaller Norman Powell.  After MPJ swings the ball, the Joker recognizes the mismatch and lobs it in perfectly over Jusuf Nurkic and Powell, serving up an easy two points for Gordon down low.

Denver ran several advanced screen sets; whether it was two screeners or sending multiple people through a Jokic pick, the goal was always to create chaos and trust the Joker to make the best decision with the ball in his hands. As a result, he finished with 5 assists and dominated the game while only taking 20 shots.

Portland needs to create a game-plan to defend these advanced screen sets. They’ll have to find a way to keep Nurkic on Jokic while also staying in front of Denver’s cutters and shooters. It won’t be easy, but it’s imperative to the series that they find a solution.