The Portland Trail Blazers are in a rugged scheduling situation, having played the Los Angeles Clippers last night, and quickly having to turn right around and face another Top 4 squad in the Western Conference.
Denver has moved ahead of the L.A. Lakers and taken over the fourth position in the West and has its sights on leaping over the Clippers next. The Nuggets needed a day off before traveling, off their intense double-overtime win over Memphis 139-137 as eight-point home favorites.
What will we have in store in Rip City? Top sportsbooks like Bet365 have Denver as a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 226 according to their NBA odds.
Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Denver Playing for Now and the Future
With the loss of point guard Jamal Murray with a torn ACL, Denver is going with a “committee” approach to that position. With Monte Morris battling a hamstring that coach Mike Malone said could be “a little while.”, the Nuggets signed veteran Austin Rivers to a 10-day contract, to provide more options.
Everyone knows the Denver offense runs through center Nikola Jokic and during the regular season that might be fine, but in the playoffs when opposing coaches can focus their attention on just one opponent, the Nuggets will need backcourt scoring and defense to advance.
Jokic, or the “Joker”, as he is referred to now in the midst of an MVP season, has become almost unstoppable as an offensive force. His ability to score and pass the rock is amazing to watch. If you’ve seen him play, it’s clear his confidence is that of a top rung player.
No question the loss of Murray has an impact, however, Denver could be saved by the trade they made for Aaron Gordon. The 6’8 Gordon is a great compliment to Michael Porter Jr. giving the Nuggets a top-shelf front court.
However, in games like tonight, the backcourt with Will Barton, Facundo Campazzo, versatile PJ Dozier and possibly Rivers, has to apply themselves for Denver to win.
Portland Scuffling to Find the Right Connection
There was a thought among professional basketball watchers in the Northwest that once CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic returned, given how effective Portland played all season, this team could blaze a new trail.
That hasn’t happened and this month the Blazers are 3-7 SU and 4-6 ATS. McCollum, though offensively effective, has not done his share on defense. After being given MVP consideration for his play most of this season, Damien Lillard is banged up and is playing like he’s worn out from carrying this team most of the season. Lillard is shooting only 38.5% from the field in April while averaging 21.3 points per game, well below his season average of 28.7.
In Portland’s last nine games versus teams headed to the postseason, the Blazers are 1-8 SU and 2-7 ATS, with four of those setbacks by 17 or more points.
This is a club designed to win with offense and when that falls off, trying to manufacture victories with a defense that is 27th in field goal percentage defense and 29th in defensive efficiency, that won’t cut it.
The Point Spread Winner
Online betting sites know Lillard did not play last night and he’s not for sure this evening. For NBA picks, given the up and down nature of Portland’s offense recently, Denver appears the wiser choice.
The Blazers gave an all-out effort last night in their loss to the L.A. Clippers, falling by a single digit 113-112 as five-point home underdogs. That is a great deal of energy to expend and Portland is 3-7 (4-6 ATS) as a home underdog this season.
Denver enters this affair with many positives. The Nuggets are 8-2 ATS when playing with a days rest and 8-3 ATS in away games. Making the trip to Oregon has not been a big issue having covered the spread six of seven times.
Though Denver might be thinner in the backcourt, they have such a dramatic advantage in the frontcourt that will end up being the difference in the outcome as they pull away late for the win and cover.
NBA Picks: Nuggets -1.5 (-110) at Bet365