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Damian Lillard aware Blazers must make life difficult for Nikola Jokic to win series vs. Nuggets

Damian Lillard, Nikola Jokic

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic gave the Portland Trail Blazers fits during a 121-113 win to grab a 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference Semifinals on Monday night. Blazers point man Damian Lillard, who scored a game-high 39 points, noted his team must make the big dipper uncomfortable if they are to win the series.

Jokic had 37 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the Nuggets’ victory. While not quite triple-double numbers, they were plenty to give the Blazers headaches throughout the course of the game:

“He’s a great player,” said Lillard, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “It’s got to be a team effort. You’re not going to completely take him out. But you got to make things difficult for him. We got to make him see bodies, we got to be physical. We got to be ready to help big on the post and get back to our man, but we also got to make sure that when he’s putting up shots that we are keeping him off the glass. Because he is one of the best at shooting the ball and following his shot, and the second attempt is usually easier than the first one is for him.”

The Blazers’ initial aim was to bombard Jokic and hope he couldn’t find his teammates, instead turning the ball over. Yet the cerebral big man took advantage of the coverage, burying 11 of his 18 shots from the field, including 3-of-5 from deep and all 12 of his free-throw attempts.

The Nuggets stalwart feels plenty confident he’ll be able to solve whatever is thrown his way:

“I think I can read everything,” said Jokic. “So I just need to know what they’re going to do. I think San Antonio was playing one way, Portland is playing one way, it’s completely different games. But I think I am capable of reading those defenses.”

Only time will tell if Blazers coach Terry Stotts can devise a plan to keep Jokic on his toes, or if the heady big man can solve the riddles in time to move past the Blazers after a 1-0 lead in the series.