With both Kanter and Nurkic at full health for the first-round playoff series, the Blazers frontcourt will look to bring a 1-2 offensive punch, not just Portland’s esteemed backcourt of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. Defense, too, will be essential if the Blazers are going to be successful.
It will start with limiting the production of Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic.
“I feel like to stop a guy like that, it’s a whole team effort,” Kanter told Colin Cowherd on The Herd Wednesday. “You cannot leave anyone on the island by themselves. Obviously, like you said, it’s so hard to even bring him the double team because he’s going to pass the ball and find an open man.”
Jokic is playing at an MVP level while averaging 26.4 points per game, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists while shooting 56.6 percent from the field, 38.8 percent from deep, and 86.8 percent from the free-throw line.
According to NBA.com, when guarded by Nurkic this season (2 games), the Joker scored 31 points, five assists and had four turnovers. The Denver center has recorded 49 points, four assists and one turnover when going head-to-head with Kanter.
Fighting through physical play and limiting Jokic will be a daunting task for the six-seeded Blazers, but it’s one they must figure out before Saturday’s matchup with the three-seeded Nuggets in Game 1.
“I think we did a really good job last game we played against,” Kanter said. “It’s going to be very interesting to see what we can do against him.”