Two superstars square off in the opening-round series of the Western Conference playoffs when Nikola Jokic and the #3 Denver Nuggets host Damian Lillard and the #7 Portland Trail Blazers.

NBA Playoffs Series Prevew Portland Trail Blazers Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic Damian Lillard
Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets defends a driving Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers. (Image: Porter Lambert/Getty)

These two teams met during an exciting series in the 2019 Western Conference semifinals when the Trail Blazers edged out the Nuggets during a seven-game thriller. The 2019 Nuggets and Blazers series featured one of the craziest playoff games in the last decade, with four overtime sessions in a Game 3 nail-biter.

Last year, the Nuggets advanced all the way to the Western Conference finals before their run ended when the LA Lakers knocked them out.


NBA Playoffs – Series Odds
#3 Denver Nuggets (47-25) vs #6 Portland Trail Blazers (42-30)
Denver Nuggets -115 Portland Trail Blazers -106

 

Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers – Series Score
Nuggets win 4-0 +1400
Nuggets win 4-1 +550
Nuggets win 4-2 +500
Nuggets win 4-3 +400
Blazers win 4-0 +1600
Blazers win 4-1 +800
Blazers win 4-2 +400
Blazers win 4-3 +450

The slow-starting Nuggets can’t afford to start out every series slow like they did last year and hope to rally from behind to defeat the Blazers in seven games. The popular series prop bets over at DraftKings have the Blazers as a +400 odds favorite to defeat the Nuggets in six games. The Nuggets are +400 odds to win the series and knock out the Blazers in seven games.

Betting the Nuggets and Blazers

The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers played each other three times during their regular-season series. The Nuggets prevailed over the Blazers 2-1, including a one-point thriller in April when the Nugs were without Jamal Murray. The two teams met in the final game of the regular season. The Blazers desperately needed a win to secure the #6 seed and avoid the play-in tournament. The Nugs rested starters in the second half and the Blazers prevailed to set up a playoff series rematch.

The Nuggets have the NBA’s second-best offensive rating (trailing the Brooklyn Nets) with 117.1. The Nuggets averaged 115.1 ppg this season and ranked #8 overall in scoring. They allowed only 111 ppg and were ranked #12 in defense. The Blazers rely on their offense to win high-scoring shootouts. They average 116.1 ppg, or fifth-best in the NBA. The Blazers’ lackadaisical defense is ranked #27 or fourth-worst in the league, allowing 115.5 ppg.

Both the Nuggets and Blazers are among the top eight teams in totals betting. The Nuggets have a 39-33 record in hitting the over, while the Blazers are 38-34 in overs. The Blazers covered the spread with a 38-34 ATS record, whereas the Nuggets struggled to beat the spread with a 34-38 ATS clip.

The Nuggets are +3000 odds to win the 2021 NBA championship, according to the last update by DraftKings. The Blazers are +6000 odds to win the title.

Portland Trail Blazers: Rip City ready

Damian Lillard looked as dangerous as he’s ever been this season while embarrassing opponents with his deep-range bombs, sometimes from only a few steps away from half-court. Lillard led the NBA with 162 clutch points (under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of a five-point game) this season, shooting 51.1% in crunch time.

CJ McCollum missed a bunch of the season with a fractured foot, but he’s back in the lineup. The Blazers have their dynamic duo healthy, which is probably the best backcourt in the West. Lillard thinks the Nuggets, especially Jokic, are dangerous even without Murray.

“They’re not at full strength, but a wounded animal is the most dangerous animal,” said Lillard in an interview with The Athletic. “The MVP of the league is on the floor. They’ve got a lot of talent. We’re going to have our hands full.”

Centers Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter will attempt to tag-team Jokic and slow him down. If they can contain the Joker, then the Blazers have a good shot at winning the series. But that’s the big problem. Jokic has been difficult to defend because he’s so unpredictable on offense.

The Blazers added Norman Powell shortly before the trade deadline to provide an extra scoring punch. Powell played third fiddle to Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry with the Toronto Raptors, so he was comfortable finding his spots in Portland’s high-volume offense. Powell averages 17 ppg with the Blazers while shooting 36.1% from 3-point range.

Denver Nuggets: MVP Joker and rise of MPJ

We loved the Nuggets as a sleeper pick to win the title this year, but that was before Jamal Murray suffered a blown-out ACL and required season-ending surgery.

Instead of wilting in the face of adversity, Michael Malone’s Nuggets didn’t skip a beat. Without Murray, the Nuggets went on a 13-5 heater to end the season. Jokic proved to any doubters why he should win the MVP this season, averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game. Michael Porter, Jr. also stepped up in the scoring department, averaging 23.5 ppg since Murray’s injury, while newly-added Aaron Gordon found his groove with his new squad.

Then again, Murray posted some monstrous games inside the NBA Bubble last postseason. Will Jokic and Porter unleash 40-point games without blinking? Because that’s the kind of offensive wizardry that Murray conjured up last year. Porter finished the season shooting an impressive 44.5% from 3-point range.

The Blazers have the NBA’s second-worst defensive rating at 116. They struggle on close-outs and on defending the 3-pointer, allowing opponents to shoot 37.2% from downtown against them.

Backup point guard Facundo Campazzo from Argentina will be the x-factor in this series. Campazzo will be tasked with defending Lillard, which is no easy feat. Campazzo did a bang-up job guarding Lillard in the regular season, but postseason Dame is an entirely different beast.

Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

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