Blazers 97, Nuggets 90 – Series tied at 1-1 heading to Portland
Both Damian Lillard and Nikola Jokic got off to slow starts in this one, but even though Jokic outdueled Lillard in terms of fantasy, the Blazers were able to hang on for the win, tie the series at 1-1, and take homecourt advantage as the series heads to Portland for Games 3 and 4.
Lillard just didn’t have it last night, hitting 5-of-17 shots and 1-of-7 3-pointers for 14 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block, yet the Blazers still hung on for the win. C.J. McCollum led the way with 20 points, but hit just 8-of-20 shots and three 3-pointers to go along with six rebounds and six dimes in the win. Enes Kanter, who is still playing well through his dislocated left shoulder, had 15 points, nine boards, two steals and two blocks, and Rodney Hood also had 15 points, two 3-pointers, three rebounds, and an uncharacteristic three blocks off the Blazers’ bench. Al-Farouq Aminu double-doubled with 11 points, 10 rebounds and a 3-pointer, while Moe Harkless lasted just 13 minutes before leaving with a sprained right ankle, never to return.
Harkless rolled his right ankle in the first half and Jake Layman started the second half in his place, but didn’t score in his six minutes. If you’re looking for a Harkless replacement in fantasy going forward, the extra minutes will likely just be divided between Aminu, Hood, Evan Turner and Layman. Maybe Layman starts, and maybe he has a better showing in Game 3, but my money’s on Hood for providing the most fantasy value if Harkless is out. Harkless should be considered day-to-day and questionable for Game 3 at this point.
Zach Collins had 10 points and six rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting in just 17 minutes off the bench, and could also see a small boost if Harkless is out. Meyers Leonard didn’t even get off the bench tonight.
For the Nuggets, Jokic led the way with just 16 points, but also had 14 rebounds, seven assists and a steal on 7-of-17 shooting. He was also in foul trouble for most of the night, finishing with five of them, but still played 37 minutes in the loss. Jokic took just one shot in the first quarter and had six points in the first half. The Nuggets were down 50-35 at the half and scored just 12 points in the second quarter, setting a playoff franchise record-low quarter for a home game. They hit just 5-of-23 shots in the second quarter, missing all 10 of their 3-point attempts.
Jamal Murray hit just 6-of-18 shots and 2-of-8 3-pointers for 15 points, seven rebounds, a steal and just one assist. He also only committed just one turnover, but the Nuggets will be hoping for a better all-around performance in Game 3. That may depend on the health of his right thigh, as Murray spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench trying to loosen it up. Keep an eye on him going forward, as the injury could linger throughout the playoffs.
Paul Millsap had 14 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer on a fantasy-friendly night, Malik Beasley led the Nuggets’ bench with 13 points, three boards, two assists, a steal and two 3-pointers, and starter Gary Harris played 40 minutes, finishing with 12 points, three boards and two assists on 4-of-12 shooting. He missed all five of his 3-pointers and the Nuggets hit just 35 percent of their shots, compared to Portland’s 42 percent shooting, which proved to be the difference in the game. Mason Plumlee (12 minutes, 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks), Monte Morris (1-of-8, 3 points, 6 assists), and Will Barton (1-of-6, four points, 11 rebounds, 1 block) were all quiet off the bench.
Torrey Craig started again, but suffered a nasal contusion (bloody nose) that kept him on the bench and in the locker room much longer than the Nuggets would have liked. He eventually returned late in the third quarter, sporting a protective mask, and immediately grabbed a rebound and hit a 3-pointer. It sounds like he’ll be OK for Game 3 and should be the primary defender on Lillard again. "I think Torrey Craig is the unsung hero of the game," coach Michael Malone said. "He's got some (guts). He's got some toughness."
Malone also got on his team at the half, as they kept shooting it from the outside, despite being ice cold. "If you're not making shots, maybe attack the basket, maybe get to the foul line, maybe get to the rim,' he said. “And we were getting such open looks. I understand our players shooting the shot. But when you're not having a night when you're making a shot consistently, you've got to attack the basket, you've got to push pressure on the rim. You've got to think attack instead of settle. And I thought in that first half we didn't have that mind-set."
Toronto @ Philadelphia Game 3 at 8 p.m. on ESPN – Series tied 1-1