Another series, another Game 7, this time in the Western Conference as the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets are headed to a finale in Denver today (3.30pm ET Sunday on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV).
When it comes to the NBA playoffs, there’s not a more exciting time of the year for fans. This is especially true when a key Game 7 is involved. In the conference semifinals, fans have two such games to look forward to as the Philadelphia 76ers will battle the Toronto Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Denver Nuggets.
All things considered, this has been the most even series the entire postseason. Only two games have been won by double digits, four games have been decided by eight or fewer points and only one hasn’t been close at all. Both teams have also, unlike any of the other series, traded games back-and-forth from the beginning. Neither the Nuggets nor Trail Blazers took any more than a one game lead. Each team lost once at home but that’s it. Both teams have played their game, their style of basketball. There’s been no real drama, no stars with the potential to be playing for new teams next season. It’s just been clean, solid, entertaining basketball. Now, it’s all ending the way it should, in a Game 7.
Given that the Nuggets and Trail Blazers are both playing well and neither has really exposed any sort of glaring weakness in the other, this game looks to be a compelling contest between two good teams. One team will win but don’t be surprised if this one, like the rest of the series, is kept close throughout. Denver and Portland have both shown they are deserving to move on to face what has been the NBA’s most uphill battle over the past several years, defeating the Golden State Warriors who are looking for a threepeat. First, one of these teams has to get there and that all comes down to what happens in Game 7.
So, with both teams evenly matched, both playing their brand of basketball and finding success, it is hard to pinpoint what the X-factors for this one might be. That said, here are some things to consider for our Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets Game 7 predictions and when placing a bet.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum Continue to Silence Doubters
While the Trail Blazers don’t necessarily have the star power of some of the other teams in the playoffs, what they do have are two really good players who play well off each other, in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. That’s not to say either All-Star isn’t a star player. They just aren’t flashy star players the way someone like a Kevin Durant or Joel Embiid or James Harden or Giannis Antetokounmpo would be. But in some ways, that benefits the Trail Blazers as no overwhelming stars equals no egos.
For years now, McCollum and Lillard have been a great duo, incredibly underrated really. They have not been able to lead Portland to a championship and it has been a while. So of course that leads to the questions and the doubts that these two are the anchor pieces to bring a title to the Trail Blazers. Or even just to compete for a championship, something the team hasn’t come close to doing in over a decade. With Denver staked to a 3-2 lead after winning the only real blowout in this entire series, Portland’s dynamic duo stepped up. Lillard, who, despite putting up over 23 points a game for the first five games, had been limited and his percentage from the field wasn’t great. The career Trail Blazer, Lillard was shooting under 50 percent from the field and under 30 percent from three point range. In a must-win Game 6, he exploded for 32 points including going 6-of-13 from three point range, his highest mark since Game 5 of the first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which Lillard scored 50 points and shot 10-of-18 from long distance. McCollum played his part too, chipping in 30 points and six rebounds.
Both McCollum and Lillard have put up big numbers throughout the series and the playoffs as a whole. While all the talk has been on Embiid and Jimmy Butler, Durant and Steph Curry, James Harden and Chris Paul etc, these two have been an incredible duo, perhaps even the best of the playoffs. Long since considered two guys whose playoff resumes were thin and lacking, both McCollum and Lillard have shown this year that they are more than capable of competing with the best of them. Despite facing elimination for a second game in a row, this time on the road, it would be foolish to count them out.
Denver Flourishes Thanks to Nikola Jokic
Drafted in 2014 by the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic has spent the last four seasons developing into the player that Denver could have only hoped for when they grabbed him late in the second round. In each of his four seasons, Jokic has improved his numbers, from 10 points per game to 16.7 to 18.5 and this year, 20.1. Jokic also improved his assist numbers and rebounds as he grew into a really solid seven footer.
This postseason, Jokic is putting up even better numbers, ones that have put him in some rarified air. Drafted exactly 40 positions after Embiid, it has been Jokic not the former first overall pick for Philadelphia, that has been the best big man this postseason. Jokic’s numbers against Portland are almost Kevin Love-esque from when he went on a streak of 20+ points and 20+ rebounds while with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jokic is averaging 14 rebounds a game in this semifinal series, 26.8 points and 8.7 assists as well. He has two triple doubles in this round alone and four over the course of his 13 playoff games. He is putting up these numbers in just his first NBA postseason.
Denver outlasted the San Antonio Spurs in seven games in round one and if they manage to outlast the Trail Blazers in seven, look no further than Jokic for the reason why.
Our Preview’s Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets Predictions for Game 7 with Picks Verdict
As mentioned in the open, the Trail Blazers and Nuggets are pretty evenly matched and this series has featured three guys who don’t get enough credit. Both teams have played well and it really could just come down to some little things going one team’s way and not another’s. These are the Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets predictions for today’s Game 7:
- The Nuggets have home court advantage, which has been beneficial for them this series. However we think it’ll be close and the first of our Game 7 picks is to take the Trail Blazers +5.5 points on the spread @ best odds of -110 with Intertops, Bookmaker or BetOnline. It is -115 with Bovada.
- With regard getting the better of the big and trustworthy USA sportsbooks on the total points, this preview likes the look of going over 213pts @ -110 with BetOnline or Intertops. The spread is either higher or the odds worse with the other betting outlets.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.