The last time Nikola Jokic faced the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Playoffs, the Denver Nuggets got bounced out in seven grueling games.
A lot has changed since 2019, especially for the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic is now an MVP favorite. Jamal Murray is unavailable due to a season-ending injury. Michael Porter Jr. is looking like a future All-Star. Meanwhile, the Blazers’ core remains intact.
Ahead of their First Round matchup on Saturday, Enes Kanter raved about the Blazers’ recently-concluded practice, per Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin.
Enes Kanter called yesterday's Blazers practice the best practice the team has had all season.
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) May 21, 2021
Seriously, though. We talkin’ about practice? Practice.
As cliche as it sounds, practice makes perfect. And in the Playoffs where every inch could mean advancing to the next stage or going back home, honing one’s form during practice is essential.
The Nuggets owned their season series against the Blazers in the regular season, 2-1. In those three games, Jokic averaged 29.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists compared to Damian Lillard’s 23.0 points, 9.3 assists, and 4.7 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Kanter normed 13.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists against Denver this season. It’s important to note that Jusuf Nurkic was present in two of those three games. The latter is expected to be given the unenviable task of containing Jokic but it’s going to require two or more able-bodied giants to accomplish the task.
Who could forget these two teams’ exhausting duel in Game 3 of the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals that needed four—yes, you read it right—overtime sessions to determine the winner.