Denver at Portland
Time: 8 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: POR -7.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Denver Nuggets have the best home record in the NBA, but it is just 20-19 on the road where it takes on last night’s foe, the Portland Trail Blazers tonight at 9:30 (CT) on ESPN as 7.5-point underdogs. The Nuggets are seeded No. 2 in the Western Conference but trail Golden State by two games with just four games remanning in the season for both teams. The Nuggets would face the Oklahoma City Thunder if the playoffs began today, while the Blazers would square off against No. 5 Utah with the home court advantage.
Denver has been dominant at the Pepsi Center this season. It is one of just five teams with less than 10 losses at home on the season, and it has gone 33-16 against fellow Western Conference teams as perhaps the West’s second-most dominant team behind only the Conference-leading Warriors. Denver has a +4.2 point differential, and it has won six of its last 10 games to finish the season as one of potentially six or seven 50-win teams in 2019.
Nikola Jokic will be a top contender for the league’s MVP award. He has averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 2.0 steals/blocks while spearheading one of the league’s most unique and dominant offenses. Jamal Murray has blossomed into a major scorer this season with Will Barton unavailable for the Nuggets most of the season. Murray has averaged 18 points per game this year with 4.8 assists per game, while Gary Harris and Paul Millsap each contribute 12 points per game. Malik Beasley has blossomed into the role once occupied by Barton, and rookie Monte Morris is quietly having a very strong season off the Nuggets’ bench. Isaiah Thomas has played in just 11 games and appears to have little left in his NBA career, unfortunately, but the Nuggets have ridden the brilliance of Jokic and Murray to a 50-win season and are a legitimate threat that even the Warriors must consider. Denver is so dangerous on its home court and if it could steal a game in Oakland it could give the Warriors a run in the 2019 playoffs.
Portland is 50-29 and has also been dominant on its home court (30-10). The Blazers have won its past two outings and eight of its last 10 games and boast a better win differential than either Denver or Houston at +4.3. Portland is without its starting center Jusuf Nurkic for the remainder of the season after he suffered a horrific leg injury, but fortunately, the Blazers did sign Enes Kanter who should fill in adequately as a starter, albeit one largely without a defensive presence. The Blazers get 47.3 points from its starting backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but Nurkic was the No. 3 scorer at 15.6 points per game. Kanter should be able to fully replace that, but he is not the same shot-blocking presence nor rim protector that Nurkic is.
The Blazers will need Zach Collins probably to step up as another one who is capable of changing shots and anchoring a defense. Collins averages nearly a block per game in just 17 minutes a night, and he is also averaging nearly seven points and four rebounds per game. The Blazers really did receive something of a death-blow in losing Nurkic, but this is a team that is driven by its backcourt, and Lillard should be able to carry Portland to at least a competitive playoff showing—provided that Kanter can at least score at the clip Nurkic does. The defense has to be a major concern for the Blazers now, though. Collins should be able to provide some of the defensive presence, but losing Nurkic ultimately cripples Portland in too many other ways.