The last of the four second-round series in the 2019 NBA playoffs gets underway Monday.
Fresh off their Game 7 triumph, the Denver Nuggets face the unenviable task of defending Portland guard Damian Lillard, who enters the Pepsi Center on plenty of rest.
The Nuggets had one day off between their first-round Game 7 win over San Antonio and the start of the series with Portland, who finished off Oklahoma City Wednesday.
Game 2 between Philadelphia and Toronto in the Eastern Conference second round kicks off Monday's two-game slate.
The second-seeded Raptors defeated the third-seeded 76ers Saturday to open up an early one-game lead in the series.
NBA Playoffs Monday Schedule
Game 2: Philadelphia at Toronto (8 p.m. ET, TNT)
Game 1: Portland at Denver (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT)
Games can be live-streamed on TNTdrama.com.
How Will Leonard Follow Up Career-Best Playoff Scoring Total?
It is going to be hard for Kawhi Leonard to replicate his 45-point performance from Game 1 against the Sixers, but then again, everything we have seen out of the former San Antonio player in the postseason has been stellar.
Leonard has reached 25 points in five of his six playoff games, and he has come away with double-doubles in two of those contests.
Since Leonard will have the ball in his hands a lot again Monday, the Sixers will have to work on containing him.
If Leonard scores anywhere from 15-25 points, the Sixers have a chance to steal a game from Toronto before heading back home for Game 3.
But the Sixers have had trouble limiting Leonard's success on the court, as he has three 30-plus point performances this season versus Philadelphia.
Leonard has not lost to the Sixers in a Raptors jersey. The one loss Toronto suffered against Philadelphia in the regular season came when Leonard was inactive.
Toronto's overall home form is also going in its favor, as it has six wins in its last seven games inside Scotiabank Arena.
Leonard is likely going to score somewhere around 25-30 points, and the Sixers can either try to directly stop him or go after his teammates and try to limit Toronto's offensive production that way.
No matter which defensive strategy the Sixers choose, it is going to be difficult to employ if the Raptors shoot over 50 percent from the field again.
Will Rested Portland Be Able To Take Game 1 From Denver?
Lillard and his Portland teammates come into the Pepsi Center on plenty of rest and full of confidence.
Lillard scored 24 points or more in each of his five games against Oklahoma City, and he finished off the series with a 50-point outing and a series-ending buzzer-beater.
In the five games against the Thunder, Lillard achieved success from three-point range, as he made at least three triples in each of the first-round contests.
But Denver is one of the few teams that gave Lillard trouble in the regular season, as he reached 20 points in two of the four meetings with the Nuggets.
However, if there ever was a time for the Blazers to pick up a road win, Game 1 would be it, since Denver is coming off an emotional Game 7 victory over San Antonio.
The rested Blazers could set the tone for the series by controlling Game 1 through Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Conversely, Denver could come out of the locker room with a ton of energy from the home crowd and with momentum gained from battling through a tough first-round series.
In Saturday's Game 7, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic combined for half of Denver's 90 points, while Gary Harris chipped in 11 of his own.
Portland is capable of slowing down Murray and the Denver guards, but it may not have an answer for Jokic, who scored 62 points in two home games against the Blazers.
If Portland finds an answer to silence Jokic's offensive impact, it could pull off a Game 1 upset, but if not, Denver will take a controlling stake in the series.
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