Denver-Portland Preview Capsule
Capsule preview of the Western Conference semifinal series between Denver and Portland:
No. 2 DENVER NUGGETS (54-28, 4-3) vs. No. 3 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (53-29, 4-1)
Season series: Nuggets, 3-1
Story line: Portland hasn’t been to the Western Conference finals since 2000, Denver not since 2009, so one of those long droughts will be coming to an end in the next couple of weeks. The Nuggets needed seven games to get past seventh-seeded San Antonio in Round 1, and Portland dispatched Oklahoma City in five games capped by a picture-perfect 37-footer from Damian Lillard — who was absolutely brilliant throughout the series — to win the clincher there. Blazers guard CJ McCollum had an open look at the buzzer of a Denver-at-Portland game in November, came up short, the Nuggets won by one and had that outcome gone the other way the Blazers would have had home-court in this series.
Key matchup: Denver’s Nikola Jokic vs. Portland’s Enes Kanter and Zach Collins. Jokic is the do-everything guy for the Nuggets, and Kanter — who was fabulous at times in the series against the Thunder — will likely be somewhat limited in this matchup with a shoulder problem. That means Collins may have to play more in Round 2. They won’t stop Jokic, but need to keep his numbers somewhat manageable.
Prediction: Nuggets in 7.
— AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds