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May 31—Game 5 is going to be different.

That was Michael Porter Jr.’s message Monday with the Denver Nuggets, out to show Saturday’s Game 4 showing in a 115-95 loss to Portland was an outlier when both teams look to take a 3-2 series lead on Tuesday.

The Nuggets scored 14 fewer points in Game 4 than any of the previous three games, while Porter’s three shots and three points were his lowest and second-lowest marks of the season, respectively.

“I can’t let myself be as small of a factor as I was the last couple of games, in my opinion,” Porter said. “They’re doing a good job of executing their game plan for me, and it’s a learning experience for me. But lucky for me, I got good people around me as far as my trainer, great guys around here that show me the film, so I’m going to learn sooner rather than later. It will be a different game tomorrow.”

Portland’s game plan has primarily featured Jusuf Nurkic guarding Nikola Jokic straight up, while Norman Powell sticks to Porter as closely as possible. Porter’s field-goal attempts have dipped from 21 in Game 1 to 13 (Game 2), 11 (Game 3) to three (Game 4), while his points have dropped from 25 to 18 to 15 to three over the course of the series. He believes he can turn things around by getting easier points in transition or off of offensive rebounds.

“My job as a head coach is to help Michael Porter, but I also told him, he has to help himself (by) being a lot more physical,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Norman Powell is doing a good job — give him credit — but Michael’s got to be a lot more aggressive, a lot more physical himself. He’s got to get on the glass. He’s a much better rebounder than he’s shown.”

In addition to Powell’s presence, the Trail Blazers are also showing extra bodies when Porter comes off picks of dribble-hand offs. That has eliminated, or greatly increased the difficulty of, some shots Porter’s used to taking and making.

“It’s very crowded when I touch the ball,” Porter said.

“I can do a better job of, you know, getting myself open, forcing the issue, imposing my will. Other than that, (it’s) finding my shots in other areas which is transition, on the glass, you know, taking advantage of mismatches in the post. I got to do a better job of all of that.”

At 6-foot-10, Porter’s got seven inches on Powell. He’ll see if he can use that to his advantage in what figures to be a pivotal game in a best-of-seven first-round series.

“It’s definitely going to be different tomorrow,” Porter said. “I’m going to get better shots and be more aggressive tomorrow.”

Barton still working toward return

Michael Malone has been clear about Will Barton III’s status this postseason. Barton wants to return to action and Malone would welcome his veteran wing back into the rotation but that likely won’t happen Tuesday.

“I’m not even sure what Will’s official status is for tomorrow night, but I do not see him playing … can’t rule out Game 6 and 7,” Malone said Monday. “Hopefully, we can get him back at some point.”

The Nuggets didn’t have any live sessions in Monday’s practice, Malone said, but Barton participated in full. Now, he just needs clearance from the medical staff.

“There are certain items on our checklist that need to be cleared before he’s cleared for him to resume playing in this series, and he’s just not there yet,” Malone said. “When is that going to happen? I really have no idea. I just know when I watch Will work out, when I watch Will in practice when I talk to him, I think he’s definitely getting closer.”