Numbers preview: Denver Nuggets (2) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (3)

NBA.com Global on Apr 29, 2019 06:14 PM
Numbers preview: Nuggets (2) vs. Trail Blazers (3)
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, left, and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard watch the ball bound away during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 5, 2019, in Denver. The Nuggets won 119-110. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

While the heavyweights battle it out on the other side of the Western Conference bracket, the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers have themselves an opportunity. It's been 10 years since either of these teams was in the conference finals and, among West teams, they rank ninth and 11th in postseason wins since then.

The Blazers are led by Damian Lillard, who averaged 33 points in the first round, putting the Oklahoma City Thunder away with an incredible, 37-foot buzzer-beater in Game 5. The Nuggets are built around Nikola Jokic, who averaged 23 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in his first playoff series as the Nuggets survived against the San Antonio Spurs.

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The Blazers are rested, but the Nuggets have home-court advantage and won a high-scoring season series, 3-1.

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the Western Conference semifinals.

Denver Nuggets (54-28, 4-3)

First round: Beat San Antonio in seven games.
Pace: 93.1 (15)
OffRtg: 113.1 (3)
DefRtg: 110.7 (11)
NetRtg: +2.3 (8)

Nuggets postseason notes - General:

1. Nuggets-Spurs was the slowest-paced series of the first round (93.1 possessions per team per 48 minutes).

2. Outscored the Spurs by 9.0 points per game from 3-point range. That was the second-biggest differential in the first round.

3. Were outscored by 15.4 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter, the fourth-worst mark in the first round. Lost the first quarter in five of their seven games, but have won the second quarter in each of the last five.

Nuggets postseason notes - Offense:

1. Had a 2.84 assist/turnover ratio in the first round. That was the second-best mark for any team in any series in the last 20 years.

2. Rank fourth in the playoffs in ball movement (339 passes per 24 minutes of possessions) and 12th in player movement (10.9 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession).

3. Have scored 1.27 points per possession in transition, the postseason's best mark, though their 12.9 transition possessions per game rank 14th.

4. Ranked sixth in offensive rebounding percentage, but second with 14.9 second-chance points per game in the first round.

Nuggets postseason notes - Defense:

1. Saw the biggest drop in the percentage of their opponents' shots that came from three-point range from the regular season (37.0 percent, 20th-lowest rate) to the playoffs (23.3 percent, lowest). Part of that was the opponent, but the Spurs' offense also saw the biggest drop in its 3PA/FGA rate from the regular season (28.6 percent, 30th in the league) to the playoffs (23.3 percent, 16th).

2. The Spurs also saw the third-biggest drop in three-point percentage, from 39.2 percent (first) in the regular season to 33.8 percent (ninth) in the first round. In the playoffs, San Antonio ranked fifth in field goal percentage in the paint and 13th in effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint.

3. A full 19.5 percent of the Spurs' possessions were pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions. That was the seventh-highest rate in the playoffs and up from the Nuggets' regular-season opponent rate of 13.8 percent, which was the second-lowest in the league. The Nuggets allowed the Spurs' pick-and-roll ball-handlers to score 0.98 points per possession, up from Denver's opponent rate of 0.83 in the regular season.

Nuggets postseason notes - Lineups:

1. Starting lineup (for Games 4-7) of Murray, Harris, Craig, Millsap and Jokic ranked fourth offensively (122.3 points scored per 100 possessions) and 15th defensively (110.1 allowed per 100) among 19 lineups that played at least 35 minutes together in the first round.

2. The Nuggets were outscored by 10.2 points per 100 possessions with Will Barton on the floor. That was the worst on-court NetRtg among players who averaged at least 15 minutes for a team that advanced to the conference semifinals.

3. Best on-court NetRtg among two-man combinations (minimum 75 minutes together): Craig and Millsap. The Nuggets outscored their opponents by 12.6 points per 100 possessions in 81 minutes with the trio on the floor together.

Nuggets postseason notes - Individuals:

1. Will Barton shot 5-for-26 (19 percent) from three-point range, the worst mark among players who attempted at least 25 shots from deep in the first round.

2. Torrey Craig has shot 11-for-18 (61 percent) on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, the best mark among players who have attempted at least 15.

3. Gary Harris has an effective field goal percentage of 57.9 percent, up from 48.8 percent in the regular season. That's the fourth biggest jump among 50 players with at least 500 field goal attempts in the regular season and at least 50 in the playoffs.

4. Harris has an assist-turnover ratio of 8.50, the best mark among 123 players that have averaged at least 15 minutes per game in three or more playoff games. Monte Morris (6.50) and Nikola Jokic (5.33) also rank in the top seven.

5. Nikola Jokic leads the postseason with six double-doubles and is tied for the postseason lead withtwo triple-doubles.

6. Jokic also leads the postseason with 118.0 touches per game and 9.7 elbow touches per game. He ranks second with 9.1 assists per game and 22.4 assists points created per game.

7. Jokic also ranks second with 5.9 screen assists per game.

8. Paul Millsap has shot 13-for-19 (68 percent) on non-restricted-area paint shots, the best mark among players who have attempted at least 15 in the playoffs.

9. Jamal Murray has shot 46 percent from mid-range, the third best mark among players with at least 20 mid-range shots in the postseason.

10. Mason Plumlee has averaged 8.0 fouls per 36 minutes, most among 142 players that have played at least 50 postseason minutes.

Portland Trail Blazers (53-29, 4-1)

First round: Beat Oklahoma City in five games.
Pace: 100.9 (7)
OffRtg: 109.9 (8)
DefRtg: 104.4 (6)
NetRtg: +5.5 (7)

Blazers postseason notes - General:

1. Lead the postseason in time of possession (23.8 minutes per game).

2. Have been at their best, outscoring Oklahoma City by 19.9 points per 100 possessions, in the third quarter. They were a plus-0.8 points per 100 possessions in the other three quarters combined.

3. Outscored the Thunder by 7.2 points per game from three-point range. That was the third-biggest differential in the first round.

Blazers postseason notes - Offense:

1. Best three-point shooting team (40.5 percent) in the first round.

2. Rank 16th in the playoffs in ball movement (243 passes per 24 minutes of possessions) and 15th in player movement (10.1 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession). Only team that has recorded assists on less than half of its field goals.

3. Have taken 17.4 shots per game in the last six seconds of the shot clock, according to Second Spectrum tracking. That's the most in the playoffs and up from 12.9 per game in the regular season.

Blazers postseason notes - Defense:

1. The Thunder scored less than a point per possession in three of their five games after scoring less than a point per possession just three times in their last 43 regular-season games.

2. Allowed Oklahoma City to make 20 corner three-pointers, tied for most in the first round.

3. The Thunder averaged 20.0 transition possessions per game. That was the second-highest rate in the postseason, but their 0.96 points per possession in transition ranked 15th.

Blazers postseason notes - Lineups:

1. Starting lineup - Lillard, McCollum, Harkless, Aminu and Kanter - ranked sixth offensively (114.7 points scored per 100 possessions) and 16th defensively (110.9 allowed per 100) among 19 lineups that played at least 35 minutes together in the first round.

2. Have been 41.7 points per 100 possessions better with Damian Lillard on the floor (plus-11.4) than they've been with him off the floor (minus-30.3). That's the fifth biggest on-/off-court NetRtg differential among 100 players that played at least 100 minutes in the first round.

3. Have averaged just 18.8 points per game, fewest in the playoffs, off the bench.

Blazers postseason notes - Individuals:

1. Al-Farouq Aminu (8-for-16) is one of three players that have shot 50 percent or better on at least 10 corner three-point attempts.

2. Maurice Harkless (1.2 and 1.6) is one of five players who have averaged more than one steal and more than one block per game in the postseason.

3. Rodney Hood has averaged just 3.2 points per game, down from 11.2 in the regular season. That's the fourth-biggest drop among 163 players who have played in at least three playoff games after playing in at least 40 regular-season games.

4. Enes Kanter has averaged 6.0 second-chance points per game, most in the postseason. His 18 rebounds in Game 1 against Oklahoma City were the most for any player in a game in the first round.

5. Damian Lillard ranks second in postseason scoring at 33.0 points per game. He was one of two players with a 50-point game in the first round. He has averaged 12.6 points in the third quarter, most among any player in any quarter in the playoffs.

6. Lillard also ranks second in the postseason with 3.6 deflections per game and ranks third with 2.4 steals per game. He averaged 39.7 minutes per game in the first round, most among players that advanced to the conference semifinals.

7. Lillard leads the postseason in time of possession (9.9 minutes per game). He has averaged 7.0 isolation possessions per game, second most in the playoffs, and up from 3.3 per game in the regular season.

8. Lillard has shot 19-for-37 (51 percent) on pull-up three-pointers, the best mark among eight players that have attempted at least 20.

9. CJ McCollum has traveled 1.61 miles per game on offense, most in the postseason. Lillard ranks second at 1.60 miles per game.

10. McCollum (13-for-24) is one of four players that have shot better than 50 percent on at least 20 non-restricted-area shots in the paint.

11. Lillard (12.4) and McCollum (10.0) rank third and fifth, respectively, in pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. Lillard has scored 1.11 and McCollum has scored 1.06 points per possession on those ball-handler possessions. Those marks rank fourth and sixth among 25 players with at least 25 total ball-handler possessions.

12. Evan Turner has scored just 0.022 points per touch, fewest among 124 players with at least 100 postseason touches.

Regular season matchup

Season series: Nuggets won, 3-1 (2-0 in Denver)
Nov. 30 (Dec. 1, PHL time) @ Portland - Nuggets 113, Blazers 112
Jan. 13 (Jan. 14, PHL time) @ Denver - Nuggets 116, Blazers 113
Apr. 5 (Apr. 6, PHL time) @ Denver - Nuggets 119, Blazers 110
Apr. 7 (Apr. 7, PHL time) @ Portland - Blazers 115, Nuggets 108

Pace: 97.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes
Denver OffRtg: 117.2 (5th vs. Blazers)
Blazers OffRtg: 115.1 (5th vs. Denver)

Matchup notes:

1. The Nuggets were 3-0 with Nikola Jokic. They rested Jokic, Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray in the Apr. 7 (Apr. 8, PHL time) game, which was the only meeting in which the Blazers' current starting lineup (with Enes Kanter at center) played.

2. Will Barton missed the first meeting and Gary Harris missed the second meeting for Denver. Jusuf Nurkic was healthy for the first two games and Kanter was with the Blazers for the last two. CJ McCollum missed the third meeting.

3. The Nuggets' 119 points on 95 possessions on Apr. 5 (Apr. 6, PHL time) was the fourth most efficient game against Portland this season.

4. Over the four games, the Blazers grabbed 32.3 percent of available offensive rebounds, the second-highest mark for any team against Denver this season. Only one player had more offensive rebounds against Denver this season than Enes Kanter, who had 19 in three total games (one with New York) against the Nuggets.

5. The Blazers outscored the Nuggets by 22 points in the paint (+18) or at the free-throw line (+4). The Nuggets outscored the Blazers by 28 points from outside the paint (+10 in mid-range, +18 from three-point range).

6. Monte Morris had an effective field goal percentage of 75.0 percent, the second-best mark among 101 players that took at least 25 shots against the Blazers this season. Paul Millsap (67.1 percent) and Jokic (67.0 percent) were also in the top seven.

7. Lillard's usage rate against Denver was just 22.2 percent, his lowest mark against any Western Conference opponent. He shot 10-for-35 (29 percent) from three-point range, including 3-for-19 (16 percent) on pull-up three's.

8. The Nuggets were a plus-24 in 28 minutes (over three games) with Jokic and Mason Plumlee on the floor together. That was the best cumulative two-man plus-minus in the season series. The worst belonged to the Blazers' bench combination of Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard, who were a minus-27 in 39 minutes against Portland.

9. The Nuggets scored efficiently (1.21 points per possession) when Nurkic was matched up with Jokic. They scored even more efficiently (1.29) when Kanter was matched up with Jokic.

10. The Blazers primarily defended Murray with Lillard and Harris with McCollum, but the Nuggets primarily defended Lillard with Harris. And among 30 defenders who defended Lillard on at least 50 possessions this season, none deterred Lillard from shooting as much as Harris did.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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