Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets: 5 storylines to keep tabs on

Nuggets Blazers series features Jokic against Lillard

Nuggets-Trail Blazers series mega preview: X-factor, key matchup, prediction and more

The Nuggets now need just three more victories to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2009. The Blazers' center entered Monday's game questionable after injuring his left shoulder in Game 5 of the first round but gave it a go after testing it in pregame workouts and was effective on offense early, making five of his first six shots and scoring 10 points in nine minutes during the first quarter.

This highly-anticipated matchup was tight throughout the first half. Denver, which had the best home record in the league during the regular season (37-4), rode a big game from Nikola Jokic to win its sixth straight at the Pepsi Center over Portland and take a 1-0 series lead. Rodney Hood added 17 points off the bench while CJ McCollum chipped in 16 points.

Nuggets: The inexperienced Nuggets pulled out a gut-check performance after almost blowing a 17-point second-half lead to the Spurs in Game 7 - that builds character. Lillard finished the first half with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field to go along with three makes from distance.

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Denver: The Nuggets were coming off a 2-for-20 performance from 3-point range Saturday night. The Denver Nuggets have covered five of their last eight home games as a favorite and have split their last 10 games ATS as a favorite overall. The Denver Nuggets are allowing 34.5 percent shooting from deep and are grabbing 42.8 rebounds per game. The Portland Trail Blazers have won seven of their last 12 road games.

Officiating has been under intense scrutiny this postseason, boiling over with Game 1 of the Rockets-Warriors series that had both teams upset after Golden State's win.

Damian Lillard put up 39 for the Blazers but he didn't have the same contribution from his supporting case like Jokic did. All the Nuggets had to do was slow down the Trail Blazers late push, which they were able to do in capturing the win.

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In the night's other game Jimmy Butler had 30 points and 11 rebounds, James Ennis scored 13 points and the 76ers held on to beat the Raptors, evening their Eastern Conference semifinal series 1-1.

Because of the Nuggets late game execution, Portland had no chance of a comeback as Denver picked up a 121-113 victory in Game 1. With a series under their belt, you can expect Jokic and his supporting cast, featuring Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, to play more relaxed and confident. Tip-off for that game is set for 7 pm MDT and will be televised nationally on TNT.

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