PORTLAND, Ore. — I’m a nerd.
I figured I should get that out of the way first. Only a nerd would write an article about the Trail Blazers, a must-win Game 6, and a video game simulation at my home in Sherwood.
Please understand that I know how silly this article is. I know that a video game simulation has no basis in reality. I also know that video games are fun, sports are fun, and so this should be fun, too.
I’ve been playing NBA video games for as long as I can remember. It started in elementary school, playing "One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird" on my parents’ Commodore 64. A few years later, I wasted way too much time in college playing NBA Live. About 10 years ago, I switched from NBA Live to NBA 2K. It’s been my video game of choice since.
Back to the Blazers, and Game 6.
You’d be completely justified if you think it’s over, Blazers fans. Portland barely showed up for a pivotal Game 5 in Denver. They were overmatched. They looked fatigued. Worse, they looked disinterested. It was embarrassing. If you, a long-suffering Blazers fan, feel like the season is already over, I get it.
I don’t know why, but I’m surprisingly confident about Portland’s chances in Game 6. Tuesday night’s game was weird. The Blazers shot poorly, and it had little to do with Denver’s defense. The Nuggets were too busy shimmying, giggling, and licking their fingers to play much defense in that game.
Twenty nine of the Blazers’ 37 3-point attempts were open. Not a single defender within four feet. The Blazers made seven of those 29 open shots (24.1%). That’s grotesque. The Blazers missed 14 free throws, for crying out loud. Can’t get more open than that.
So, throw out Game 5. Burn the tape and bury the ashes. Scrub the hard drive. Forget it happened.
Remember Game 5? What Game 5? Exactly.
Until the game-that-shall-not-be-named was played, this series had been close. We’ve already documented that. It stands to reason that Game 6 will be competitive like the first four games of this series. It makes sense to give the home team the advantage. That’s what Las Vegas has done. The Blazers are favored by four points in Game 6.
Do you know who else thinks the Blazers will win Game 6? 2K.
If you follow me on Twitter (not many people do, so if you’re one of the few, please feel special), you know I did this once before. Prior to Game 3, the one that went four overtimes and created wonderful, lifelong memories for Blazers fans, I fired up 2K on my Xbox One at my home in Sherwood and simmed Game 3. One take. No cheating.
The Blazers won that game in the 2K simulated universe, and then went and won Game 3 in real life, too.
I simmed Game 4 before it was played. 2K had the Blazers lose that game. I also simmed the game we’ve already forgotten. 2K was right on that one, too.
So, Wednesday Morning, I loaded up 2K, made sure Nurk was injured (I miss you, Nurk), checked to make sure the Blazers’ rotation was accurate and hit “Simulate Game.” One take. No cheating.
The result: Trail Blazers 119, Nuggets 94.
Here’s a look at four screengrabs I took with my phone, of the box score and team stats.
Let’s go through some highlights, some lowlights, and what seems realistic and unrealistic from this simulation.
STRONG START: The Blazers blitzed the Nuggets from the opening tip and led by 20 at the end of the first quarter. Denver never really challenged after that. Realistic? I don’t know. It’s the playoffs, so I could see it happening.
BYE-BYE SHOOTING WOES: Portland broke out of its shooting slump. CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 38 points. He made 13 of 24 shots, including 7 of 12 3-pointers. Damian Lillard had 27 points on an efficient 9-for-13 shooting from the field. He nailed 7 of 11 from the 3-point line. Rodney Hood was the third-leading scorer with 14 points, and he shot the ball well too, making 5 of 9 shots, including 2 of 3 from distance. All told, the Blazers shot 51% from the field (42-82), made 19 of 42 3-point attempts (45%), and fixed their free-throw yips, making 16 of 20 (80%).
THANKS, REFS: Blazers fans have been upset at the officiating all series, but the simulated officials were kind to the Blazers in this game. The Nuggets were called for 18 fouls to the Blazers’ 14, and Portland outshot Denver at the free-throw line, 20-7.
AMINU LOOKS ABOUT RIGHT: Al-Farouq Aminu played 37 minutes in this simulated game and had 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. He also finished with a measly five points on 1-of-7 shooting, and missed five of his six 3-point attempts. Aminu contributing in a bunch of ways while missing most of his shots seems par for the course in this series.
DENVER COMES BACK TO EARTH: This box score looks like Game 2. Remember Game 2? Denver couldn’t buy a shot. They shot 34.7% from the field and 20.7% from the 3-point line. Since then, they’ve shot 46% from the field and 37% from the 3-point line. Well, in this simulated game, the Game 2 Nuggets were back, shooting 40% from the field (37 for 92) and 30% from the 3-point line (30%). They’ve got to cool off at some point, right?
OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS: Denver with just eight offensive rebounds seems unrealistic. The Nuggets were the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA during the regular season and have been killing the Blazers on the offensive boards in this series. They only had 10 offensive rebounds in the last game, so maybe they’re trending down, but I still think eight is low.
THE JOKER DISAPPEARS: I find Nikola Jokic’s stat line unbelievable, as well. He finishes with just 12 points, six assists and four rebounds in 36 minutes. Jokic is averaging 24.5 points, 13.1 rebounds and 9.0 assists in the playoffs. He could have a stinker of a game like this, but he’s been on such a roll, it’s hard to see that happening.
ISAIAH THOMAS SIGHTING: Oops. I forgot to check Denver’s rotation. Apparently, 2K thinks Isaiah Thomas is getting minutes for Denver. Not so. He hasn’t played at all in this series. 2K gave him 16 minutes in this game, and he scored 10 points on 3 of 11 shooting. It’s not completely unrealistic, considering the game was a blowout. Dancing reserve Juan Hernangomez played 13 minutes, too. But, I wish I had checked the Nuggets’ rotation in the game before I simmed it.
By the way, I also simulated Game 7 this morning at my home in Sherwood. If the Blazers win Game 6, I’ll share that result with the world, too. Let’s all hope Portland wins Thursday, because that Game 7 simulation was a doozy. Until then, you’ll have to take my word for it.
Don’t worry, my word is good. I’m a coach-potato nerd who loves video games and basketball. You can trust me.
3-on-3 Blazers podcast
Listen to the most recent edition of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast