Lillard Aims To Follow Up 55-Point Night By Rescuing Portland
No one had ever made 12 3-pointers before Portland’s Damian Lillard put on an amazing show inside Denver’s Ball Arena on Tuesday night. His 55-point effort was so brilliant that Nuggets star Nikola Jokic said “it was a pleasure to be on the court to witness that.”
It was probably easier to be that gracious since Denver was able to survive the onslaught, taking a 3-2 lead with a double-OT win behind Jokic’s own mastery. The likely 2020-21 NBA MVP finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists to keep the Nuggets from fumbling away a game they led late in regulation as well as in the first extra session before Lillard’s heroics struck, avoiding a road elimination game on Thursday night.
Instead, it’s the Trail Blazers staring at the end of their season, albeit as a home favorite. Lillard’s supporting cast, a capable group featuring excellent scorers C.J. McCollum and Norman Powell, combined for just two points over the last two overtimes, collectively shooting a brutal 1-for-19 while Lillard shot 6-for-8. For the game, Lillard hit 12 of 17 3-point attempts while teammates chipped in a 9-for-31 effort.
In other words, everyone knows they owe him in showing up tonight. Game 5 was played at a frenetic pace following Portland’s slow start that saw it dig a 28-15 deficit for itself over the first eight-plus minutes. Four of the first five games in this series have gone over the posted total as neither team has been able to contain the other for most of the matchups. Only Denver has been held under 100 points, losing Game 4 in Portland 115-95.
Full Blazers Vs. Nuggets Odds At Online Sportsbooks
Nuggets Need An Aggressive Jokic In Place To Strike Knockout Blow
Jokic was uncharacteristically quiet in that contest, finishing a team-worst minus-32 while he was on the floor. Aaron Gordon ended up a minus-30 as the duo combined for just 22 points and 13 rebounds. Michael Porter, Jr., typically the team’s second option, finished with just three points. The Trail Blazers will try and replicate that type of effort in order to stay alive and force a Game 7 back in Denver this weekend. Portland won the first three quarters in Game 4 and led by 27 points entering the fourth.
You can count on the Blazers being fired up with elimination on the line but the Nuggets have plenty of reasons to avoid coming out flat. Given how flammable Lillard can be, homecourt advantage won’t mean much in a winner-take-all affair and they know first-hand that blown leads are a thing in the playoffs. Denver rallied from 3-1 series deficits against the Utah Jazz and L.A. Clippers in the bubble last season.
Oddsmakers installed Portland as a 4-point favorite and have seen action shift the number up to five points at most. FanDuel favors Portland by 4.5 points, so if you’re interested in backing the host Blazers those are the best numbers out there. BetRivers, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Westgate all have set the line at 5 points and the total at 227.5. BetMGM has the total at 228.
The totals in this series have closed anywhere from 225 to 227.5, so there’s been little overreaction to the fact Lillard hit those 12 3-pointers and there were 287 points scored in Game 5.
Series prices at DraftKings have been set at Denver -250 to advance to the Western Conference semifinals given its 3-2 series lead. If you like Lillard lifting the Blazers to wins in Game 6 and 7, you can cash at +200.
Player props worth monitoring have Jokic bouncing back from his no-show last time he took the floor at Moda Center since his combined points, rebounds, and assists number at FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM are all available at 49.5. Lillard’s projected points figure is 33.5 for additional juice at FanDuel and BetMGM and 34.5 at -106 at DraftKings. That might be dangerous since Denver figures to sell out on stopping him, which might make a points plus assists call the right move. I expect the Blazers to force a Game 7 with a victory and recommend laying the points.