Golden St. at Denver
Time: 8 PM CT, NBA LP
Spread: DEN -1
Odds c/o 5dimes
At the midway point of the 2018-19 season, the Denver Nuggets have won a Western Conference-best 28 games. With just 13 losses, the team sits atop the division and conference and though it lost its last outing to the lowly Phoenix Suns 93-102, the Nuggets have been rolling.
Key behind its unorthodox attack is the play of “point-center” Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets run its offense through its talented 5-man, and Jokic leads all centers in assists per game at 7.5 per game. Adding that to his 19.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game produce a team-best PER of 26.1 as Jokic is quietly one of the league’s best big men. His strong passing abilities enable the Nuggets to play Jamal Murray at the point guard position where he ranks No. 2 on the team in scoring at 18.3 points per game. The Nuggets have been without Will Barton the majority of the season, too, which is no small loss as he is the team’s No. 3 offensive option.
Oddly, Paul Millsap’s role has declined heavily this season and the former All-Star is averaging under 13 points per game. The Nuggets have a deep rotation of talented scorers and average 110.3 points per game with six players averaging double-figures. Among those are Monte Morris at 10.0 points per game and Malik Beasley nearly at 9.8 per game. Both are talented guards that are finally receiving their chances in the Denver Nuggets backcourt following the jettisoning of one-time Nugget Emmanuel Mudiay.
Denver also is able to go into its second unit and produce a similar style play given the talents of backup center Mason Plumlee. He functioned as a point-center of sorts while in Portland and he averages 2.4 assists per game in under 20 minutes of play. The Nuggets have a legitimate 9 or 10-man rotation and with Jokic it truly possesses a franchise player capable of making game-changing plays and having phenomenal nightly performances. Not many are still sleeping on what the Nuggets might be capable of in the 2019 postseason.
Though Golden State has won its past three, the Warriors are not where it hoped it would be as this season has reached its midway point. With 28 wins, the Warriors are still on pace for a 50-win season, but this is a team just two seasons removed from the most winning season in NBA history. Where it has gone wrong is difficult to pinpoint, but chemistry issues, particularly those between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, seem at least partly to blame.
Injuries to Stephen Curry have also played their role in the Warriors. Whatever the reasons, the demise is mostly over-stated because this is a team still sitting No. 2 in the West on the verge of adding a perennial Allstar to its starting lineup. Whatever form Cousins may or may not be in, this is still a team with immense talent, and Cousins will not have to work hard to get his shots. After all, the Warriors will then be starting five All-Stars, even with whatever existing chemistry issues may or may not even exist.
Curry and Durant have still been outstanding this season, even if Green has maligned Durant for his attitude on multitudes of occasions. Curry is tallying 28.9 points per game and Durant is just b behind him at 28.4. Klay Thompson still has been cooking with his 21.6 points per game. Perhaps the biggest finger could be pointed at Green himself, whose defensive efforts have fallen off as his facilitation on offense has become just as dicey. Green averages under eight points per game and is good for “only” 6.8 assists per night.
His role as point-forward appears to be changing, as does this Warriors team, but it is unclear how deep those effects may run, as it is equally unclear whether Durant will re-sign with the team or head elsewhere due to the friction that has already been a problem. And therein lies the rub with dynasties: The only thing that can often derail them is internal issues, but yes, those have inevitably arisen in Golden State, and to see the Warriors trail the Nuggets in the standings is as odd as it was predictable. Ultimately, there is too much talent to question this team’s potential as a repeating Conference champion, but without some cohesion with its lineup and resolution of some defensive issues, the Warriors could be upset in the postseason. It will have done so, to itself, almost.