(CBS4)- After wrapping up the regular season with a 47-25 record, the Nuggets locked in the third seed in the Western Conference for the NBA Playoffs and a date with the Portland Trail Blazers in Round 1. Armed with the consensus MVP pick in center Nikola Jokic and a Top 10 offense (117.1 Rating) and Top 15 defense (112.1 Rating) one would think they’d be considered a potential contender to emerge from the West an book a trip to the NBA Finals. But, like the teams ahead of them in the standings, analysts have more questions entering the postseason than they do confidence.
A big part of that lack of confidence has to do with the loss of star guard Jamal Murray due to a torn ACL. Turner Sports analyst Reggie Miller said on a conference call Wednesday that even though he thinks the Nuggets will be better defensively in Murray’s absence, it’s hard to trust the team to make a deep run.READ MORE: Police Activity Closes Several Lanes On I-25 Near Arapahoe Road
“I personally think they’re a better defensive team. As much as I love Murray and he was a walking bucket in Orlando during the bubble, I think they’re a better defensive team and the ball will move a little bit better. If I’m a Nuggets fan, you have to get to the conference finals,” Miller said. “But, do you really believe that’s going to be the case because of the loss of Jamal Murray? Do you really trust the top three seeds in the West in Phoenix, Utah and Denver? They’re unproven.”
Fellow analyst Greg Anthony agreed with Miller saying that he’s been impressed by Jokic’s performance and the breakout of Michael Porter Jr. but he’s unsure that the team has enough to get to the conference final.
“I am a huge fan of Nikola and what Denver has done after the injury with Michael Porter Jr.’s emergence. But I don’t see a scenario, except for injury, where they get to the conference final,” Anthony said. “That’s not to take anything away from them. To the point that Reggie was talking about. I just don’t see any of the top three seeds getting to the finals unless some teams aren’t healthy.”READ MORE: Parker Photographer Accused Of Scamming Clients, Associates
Anthony pointed specifically to the first round matchup against the Trail Blazers as a tough matchup due to the personnel Portland has with guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum among others.
“This Portland series could be a tough matchup for Denver. It’s based on personnel and matchups. I think Jokic is going to play really well in this series. Outside of that though, I don’t know who else really plays great. Michael Porter Jr. is a terrific talent but this will be the first time he’s had this kind of responsibility in this role in terms of the postseason,” Anthony said. “The postseason, the game can be so different. It’s much more physical and it’s a lot slower. And, what happens is, you have to be able to play well when you’re not playing well. Sometimes with younger players, when shots aren’t falling, it affects every aspect of their game.”
“In the postseason, a lot of times, shots aren’t falling. You’re playing the same team, on the same schedule, they know everything you do,” Anthony continued. “They know your tendencies, the officials are going to allow the game to be played more physically, there’s more tension, there’s more anxiety. And that forces the game to slow down even more. I think that could play a role in this series.”MORE NEWS: Young Runner Evades Suspected Abductor In Jefferson County
Game 1 between the Nuggets and Trail Blazers is set for Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. Mountain Time at Ball Arena.