Portland Trail Blazers: 3 Takeaways from Game 3 loss vs Denver Nuggets

Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokic (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokic (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
3 of 4
Portland Trail Blazers, Jusuf Nurkic, Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

2. Jusuf Nurkic should be used a playmaking hub

Jusuf Nurkic has always been one of the most underrated passers in the NBA. He proved that again tonight with 6 assists. The Blazers are one of the most iso-heavy offenses in the league. They overly rely on the shot creation abilities of Dame and CJ to get their points. As a result, a lot of the other players can ball-watch and stand still on possessions on end waiting for a kick-out.

When Dame and CJ aren’t cooking though, the offense bogs down as a whole. Using Nurkic as a playmaker can inspire more off-ball movement and create easier opportunities for their star backcourt throughout the game.

Of course, when you have offensive talents like Dame and CJ, they should always be the first options for a team. Taking advantage of Nurkic’s playmaking though, doesn’t mean that they have to dump it to him in the high post and hope for the best.

Big Nurk should be asked to create offense out of the short-roll, similar to how the Golden State Warriors use Draymond Green. Damian Lillard was blitzed coming off of screens more than any other player in the NBA. In these situations, Nurkic should be getting a free run to the rim and an opportunity to find an open teammate if the defense collapses.

The Blazers have been stumbling into these type of plays for awhile. In this clip from Game 1, Nurkic sets a high-screen for Lillard. Worried about Dame’s deep range, Facu Campazzo goes over and Jokic has to shade over to prevent the drive. Dame finds Nurk rolling to the rim, who in turn finds Norman Powell wide-open for a corner three once Aaron Gordon rotates over.

These high screen-and-rolls keep the ball in Lillard’s hands, but Nurkic’s playmaking ability gives the play a second and third option. This should be the bread-and-butter for Portland’s offense moving forward.