1. Terry Stotts has to reconfigure Portland’s bench
Depth is always an important part of an NBA team. Whether it be to fill in for an injury, provide versatility in different situations, or just to allow a breather for the starters, having dependable options to come off the pine is a mandatory luxury for a team with deep playoff aspirations.
The Trail Blazers have been retooling their depth year after year. The team has had a variety of strong role players such as Evan Turner, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood but their bench as a unit has never been a boasting point for the squad in the Damian Lillard-era.
In this series, the rotation has been cut to just eight players, with only Anfernee Simons, Carmelo Anthony, and Enes Kanter regularly coming off the pine. Aside from Game 1, Denver’s bench has smoked Portland’s night in and night out. In Game 2, the Nuggets reserves outscored the Blazers bench 38-21. In the first half of Game 3, 20-3.
We’ve already discussed the complications with Kanter coming into the game to check Jokic. It’s become evident though that Portland’s bench can’t even contain Denver’s backups.
In a series this evenly matched, Coach Stotts can’t afford to watch his lead dwindle or his deficit balloon whenever the starters need a breather. Maybe the answer is a small-ball unit with Robert Covington or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson playing the five, like we saw today, especially when Jokic is taking a breath and JaMychal Green is in at center.
Either way, coach will have to find a better way to stagger minutes or make a change in the reserve unit because so far, Portland self-destructs whenever the starters come out.