It's almost go time.
The Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets are well rested and well prepared to face each other in the Western Conference’s first round.
In the highly anticipated series of two teams who know each other extremely well, the Blazers will continue to run with their three-guard lineup that brought Portland so much success down the stretch of the season.
With the addition of veteran Norman Powell, the Blazers are even more deadly from three, which the Nuggets have said will be one of their main focuses:
Running Portland off the three-point line.
While the Blazers went over the Nuggets' sets in their last full day of preparation before Game 1, Powell smiled as he shared his enthusiasm about playing alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the postseason.
“Seeing the action up close,” Powell told NBCSNW. “I watched all the playoffs series, the Game 7s, the Game 6s, and the big shots, the clutch shots that were made over the years – being able to play with them up close and seeing that competitive side.”
With the change of conference, the 27-year-old has quickly become more familiar with the Nuggets.
But as the Blazers have discussed ,it will be a full team effort to slow down Nuggets MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, Powell discussed how there’s so much more that goes into defending Jokic than just working to keep his scoring down.
“The fact that they have an MVP caliber player for them,” Powell began. “Jokic does a lot for them, offensively getting guys involved, not only himself, but he’s a great scorer and really crafty with the ball… He’s a very heady player, reading the defenses and the passes he creates you think they have no chance of getting through and he makes it happen.”
The Nuggets' role players have stepped up since adjusting to life without their second-leading scorer, point guard Jamal Murray, who was sidelined with a torn ACL last month.
No Murray has meant bigger lineups for the Nuggets.
Powell believes that could be one of the significant challenges for the Blazers.
But with so much emphasis on how the Blazers will defend the bigger lineups and the Blazers looking forward to using Powell’s speed, athleticism, and lengthy wingspan to defend on the wing, Powell is also looking to exploit the bigger lineup at the other end.
“Offensively, I think it just gives me a speed advantage to be able to attack them, get into the paint, make their defense get into rotations.”
Powell has played in 67 playoff games over his eight-year career. He has the second-most postseason experience behind Carmelo Anthony’s 77 playoff games.
With Powell winning it all as a member of the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors roster, he appeared in 23 games during that playoff run, averaging 6.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
And now alongside McCollum and Lillard, he’ll look to free up the Blazers' backcourt while attacking the Nuggets bigger defenders.
But don’t get it twisted, Powell knows what challenges come with facing bigger opponents.
“The only difficult thing that I could see is their shot contest and things like that being bigger and longer. So I just have to be more focused and locked in on my mechanics when guys are flying out contesting my shots and reading the speed of how they’re closing out on me.”
Focused, locked-in on mechanics, and reading what the defense gives him – that sounds like a good recipe for success for all three of the Blazers' starting guards.