The Blazers did what they needed to do on Sunday against the Nuggets and won, clinching their eighth consecutive playoff berth.
Coincidentally, their win and Denver losing confirmed the two teams will once again meet once again in the playoffs, two years removed from Portland’s seven-game series road win in the Western Conference semifinals.
The significant difference between the 2019 and 2021 teams is more so on the Nuggets side. Nikola Jokic has a puncher's chance at winning MVP, or at the very least finishing second, and the team will be without their second-leading scorer and playmaker, Jamal Murray, who is sidelined for the season due to torn left ACL.
In 18 games without Murray, Denver went 13-5, including a four and five-game winning streak.
The series will figure to be an emphasis on more offense than defense, which could favor Portland. During the regular-season the Blazers were fifth in the league in scoring (116.1), and second in offensive rating (117.1)
Here are the odds for the Blazers-Nuggets series, provided by our partner, PointsBet:
Moneyline: Denver (-120), Portland (+100)
Additionally, the Blazers are listed as +5000 to win the NBA Championship while the Nuggets are at +3600.
Denver is slightly favored in this series as the home team, with the right to host 4 of the 7 games in the series, but one could look at this series as a virtual toss-up.
The Trail Blazers enter the series fully healthy, outside of big man Zach Collins, who has been sidelined the entire season with an ankle injury.
Nuggets veteran Paul Millsap sees this series differently this time around, though.
“This year’s different,” Millsap said following Sunday’s regular-season finale. “Different lineup, different things on the line...I think we have a different mindset going into this postseason and I think we’re ready for it."
But the Trail Blazers have a point guard in Damian Lillard, who has played the underdog his entire career.
“I think what we do have mentally is just that," Lillard said Sunday. "Knowing that we're capable of going in and doing it, you know going in and winning the game on the road or winning multiple games on the road. And also winning a big one on the road, if we have to."
“It's a good matchup for us and one that we feel like we're more than capable of winning, so we just have to rest up and be ready.”
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