Will Barton (hamstring) targeting return during Blazers-Nuggets series

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Will Barton targeting return during Blazers-Nuggets series originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

The Denver Nuggets may be receiving some mid-series reinforcements against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Denver Post reports Will Barton is targeting to return sometime during the first-round playoff series from a hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined for nearly a month.

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Prior to the injury, Barton had started 52 games for Denver this season averaging 12.7 points and 4.0 assists per game. The 6'6" guard hasn't played since April 23rd where he was on the floor for a minute. 

The game prior, he scored 14 points on 5-13 shooting in a 106-105 win at Portland. 

Austin Rivers has started in his place since being signed. He has averaged 8.7 points and 2.6 assists in 15 appearances for Denver, including five starts. 

Barton isn't the only guard Denver awaits to see when they will return. PJ Dozier, who would help tremendously to guard Portland's backcourt, is still "a ways out" from returning according to Katy Winge of Altitude Sports. The third-year player out of South Carolina has averaged 7.7 points a game in 50 appearances, including six starts.

Denver is expected to start guards Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo in the backcourt during Game 1. The Nuggets are 2-2 with that starting backcourt with all four games coming in the team's final five games. 

With that starting backcourt, it seems probable Aaron Gordon will guard one of Lillard or McCollum during fourth quarters with the Nuggets living and dying by Robert Covington shooting over a smaller defender.

"Portland’s got three elite guards that put up unbelievable numbers every single night, and as you’ve all seen, we’ve been using Aaron Gordon to guard those guards," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said Thursday. "Whether it’s Norman Powell, CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard, and that’s going to be a hell of a challenge, not just for Aaron Gordon."

Game 1 tips off at 7:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 22nd on NBC Sports Northwest, the official home of the Portland Trail Blazers.