The NBA playoffs are a grind. Players are battle tested, battered and bruised and any team is trying to find an edge.
Of of those x-factors could be prior playoff experience.
Typically, veteran teams with players who have had multiple appearances in the postseason do better than teams with players making their playoff debuts.
In the case of Blazers vs. Nuggets, teams that have a number of similarities, can add playoff experience to that list.
In fact, their collective game experience is almost identical.
Portland’s roster has a combined 360 games worth of experience in the postseason, while Denver has 351, if Jamal Murray, PJ Dozier, and Will Barton are excluded due to injury.
But, there's one difference: The Blazers have more collective experience, having played more games together as a unit.
An anonymous coach told The Athletic's Sam Amick and Josh Robbins that could give the Blazers the upper hand:
“I think Portland has pretty good collective experience together. I think they’re hitting their stride at the right time. They’ve won 10 out of 12, and I think Denver is going to really, really struggle to guard Dame (Lillard). I love Joker, and I think he’s one of the top MVP candidates. But I think he’s going to get exposed in pick-and-roll coverage, and I think it’s a terrible matchup for Denver. If (Portland’s Jusuf) Nurkic can stay out of foul trouble, I think they’re going to have a really good chance to be able to win the series.”
“I just think the Blazers’ firepower at the two guard spots, and the continuity around those guys and knowing who they are, is going to trump that — barely. I’ll take the Blazers in seven. They obviously have confidence against this Nuggets team as well, winning in seven a couple years back. I think it’s going to be a dogfight, but I’ll go (with the) Blazers in seven."
Both teams were participants in the last two Western Conference Finals, and both are looking for the slightest edge against each other with hopes of returning to the conference finals.
A closer look at players with conference finals experience, Denver has six to Portland’s eight. Even though their WCF appearances was two seasons ago, four of the eight were on that Blazers team swept by the Warriors.
Portland’s continuity has remained intact, the only difference is the surrounding parts.
The Blazers and Nuggets both have one person with championship experience -- JaVale McGee for Denver and Norman Powell for Portland.
Both teams are extremely close wherever you look at them. Whether it's playoff experience, MVP-caliber stars, offense, and even age.
All the makings of a series that should be competitive.