The Trail Blazers did so many things right Saturday night in Denver that’s it’s difficult to figure out which one to talk about first in a 123-109 Blazer opening-game playoff win.
- Portland made 19 of its 40 three-point attempts, while the Nuggets were hitting just 11 of their 36. And in a league where the team that makes the most threes in a game usually wins, that alone was not only a telling statistic, it may be a sign of things to come.
- Denver is not a high-volume three-point shooting team and it’s going to be hard to beat the Blazers if the Nuggets are going to have to make up a 24-point deficit from behind the arc every game.
- “We're a three-point shooting team,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “We got 40 threes up and I thought, for the most part, they were good looks. And I think, and to be honest, I think we could have shot the ball even better. So, I liked the way we moved the ball and the quality of shots that we got. We're not going to change things now.”
- The Blazers had 29 assists to Denver’s 22. Portland was 18-19 from the foul line while the Nuggets were going just 4-8.
- The Portland ball movement was impressive for a team often classified as a low-assist, isolation-heavy team.
- “I think we've had a history of being predictable -- and the ball moving sometimes and then sometimes it doesn't,” Damian Lillard said. “But I think when we've been playing our best basketball, the ball has been moving around, we've been trusting each other. Hitting the roller, hitting the weak side, swinging it, making the extra pass. We've been making the extra pass a lot.
- “It's leading to higher-quality shots. And you know when you play that way, it's contagious, and I think that's what we had going for us tonight. And, you know, more guys touching the ball and being involved -- when you have that, guys give more, you know when they feel involved… I think that's been really beneficial for us, the way we've been moving the ball and doing things together and trusting each other, making that extra pass.
- “So, we just have to continue that. We've got to understand where our success is coming from and continue to lean on it.”
- Carmelo Anthony and Anfernee Simons combined for 32 big points off the Portland bench, hitting 8-13 from three-point distance. Jusuf Nurkic had 16 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
- Portland won the second half, 65-48.
Lillard had 13 assists to go with his 34 points. Nikola Jokic had just one assist with HIS 34. That was part of the Blazer plan: Jokic, the presumptive MVP winner in the NBA, will get his points, but don’t let him pick you apart with his passing.
It was pretty amazing that Denver stayed as close to the Blazers as it did, while losing Game 1 of the first-round series.
In the end, the Nuggets would probably have been better off not attempting any threes. They were 36-57 on two-point attempts (63 percent).
But they will continue to launch threes. And so it behooves them to either make more of them or defend Portland's long ones better. And with the Blazers’ talent from the outside, it very well could prove to be the deciding factor in the series.