The Portland Trail Blazers started off hot against the Denver Nuggets but all momentum shifted when the reserves came in halfway through the first quarter. Behind Nikola Jokic‘s continued excellence, and a surprise performance from playoff Austin Rivers, the Nuggets downed the Blazers, 120-115.
Jusuf Nurkic fouled out midway through the fourth quarter. With no good options for slowing down Jokic, Coach Terry Stotts turned to a rarely seen smallball unit consisting of Robert Covington spotting at the 5.
From that point on, Portland blitzed Jokic every time he touched the ball in the post and he ended up scoring only one field goal with RoCo on him. The problem for Portland was that Austin Rivers hit three 3-pointers in a row to hold off the Blazers.
The Blazers went cold from deep but their issues run deeper
Rivers ended up with 21 points, while his sidekick Jokic put up a cool 36, including 4-7 shooting from downtown. Michael Porter Jr. was held to just 15 points on 5-11 from the field, but came away with the W anyway.
Damian Lillard again did all he could, dropping 37 points in the loss. CJ McCollum added 22 points.
The Blazers struggled from deep, finishing 14-45 but at one point they were a paltry 9-36. Portland is unlikely to experience this level of frigidness from beyond the arc again, but other problems became apparent as they fell into a 2-1 hole.
Teams that win Game 3 in a 1-1 series go on to win the round 73.3 percent (176/240) of the time. The Blazers are going to have to make some adjustments if they’re to become part of the 26.7 percent of the upsets.