Former President of the U.S. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy.”
A quote that rings true today across so many avenues of life, including the 2021 first-round series between the Blazers and Nuggets.
Due to both teams participating in a fun seven-game series in 2019, which included a quadruple overtime game 3, people of all types may be inclined to think the same is in store this time around.
Well, that’s wishful thinking.
Both Terry Stotts and Michael Malone made sure to mention that both teams are significantly different since then in terms of playoff experience and roster construction.
“I wanna dispel any comparisons to 2019,” Stotts said. “I believe both teams only have four players that played in that series.”
Stotts is just about right. Technically there are five on both sides, but injuries will sideline some of the guys who appeared in the 2019 series.
Portland will be without Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture) and Denver will be missing Jamal Murray (torn ACL), and Will Barton (right hamstring).
Subtracting the injured players, it’ll be four players for Portland -- Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Anfernee Simons, and Enes Kanter -- and three for Denver -- Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, and Monte Morris -- of guys who will have appeared in both series.
As for Malone, he knows the sour taste remains for the players who were in that series. The team blew a 17-point first-half lead while Lillard struggled. It was the heroics of McCollum in the fourth which helped propel Portland to their first Western Conference Finals in 19 years.
Now, as both coaches have mentioned, the series is different. Denver now has a budding offensive star in Michael Porter Jr. to assist Jokic, along with Aaron Gordon, JaVale McGee, Austin Rivers.
As for Portland, they’ve added Nugget legend Carmelo Anthony and former Nugget Jusuf Nurkic and sprinkled in some defensive additions with Norman Powell and Robert Covington.
Both teams are different from 2019. Having each held a spot in the last two conference finals and adding better role players to complement their stars.
“They’re completely different in so many ways,” said Malone of the Blazers. “They changed how they do things, offensively and defensively, as have we. We’ve got new players, so it can’t be a rallying cry when a bunch of guys weren’t here for it. I think it’s more about preparing for their team right now. We’ve grown since that time and took a step forward last year.”
Coaches, in a way, are kinda like presidents. Speaking in cliches and platitudes and only looking forward never back.
Maybe that’s why neither Stotts nor Malone wanted to think too much about 2019, because it’ll rob them and everyone else the enjoyment of what their 2021 series could be.