Jazz vs. Nuggets Odds & Pick: Back Denver To Cover Game 2
Ashley Landis – Pool/Getty Images. Pictured: Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.
- The first-round NBA playoff series between the Jazz and Nuggets continues with Game 2 on Wednesday.
- Find out why our basketball betting analyst Reed Wallach likes Denver's chances to cover again.
Jazz vs. Nuggets Odds
|Jazz Odds||+4 [BET NOW]|
|Nuggets Odds||-4 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+145/-176 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||217.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||4 p.m. ET|
Talk about setting the tone. Game 1 of Denver-Utah, the first of the whole postseason, featured 57 points from Donovan Mitchell, a back and forth final frame, and an overtime push from Jamal Murray that proved to be too much. Denver (-5) took the opener, 135-125, flying over the total of 214.
Let’s break down the first game and see where the teams will go from there.
The Jazz needed a herculean effort from Mitchell to keep pace with the high-octane Nuggets attack. Utah did it by taking efficient shots, but some just didn’t fall. I wrote in the Game 1 preview that Utah can make Denver pay from beyond the arc, considering the Jazz have been toward the top of the bubble in 3-point attempts and Denver has been getting crushed by that shot profile. Well, Utah took 47 of them but shot at a 34% clip.
It was a slow start for the Jazz, who found themselves in a hole in the first half. But the team got going by generating looks from the paint to offset its poor perimeter game. Mitchell poured in 22 of Utah’s 52 points in the paint. The Jazz saw some more shots fall from deep in the second half, mainly because Mitchell was rolling and the Denver defense started to bend to his will. Overall, it was promising to see Utah bounce back after a slow start.
Mitchell’s performance masked a lot of issues with the Jazz. The Nuggets pretty much got whatever they wanted on the offensive end, with six players breaking double figures. On top of that, Utah didn’t generate enough offense, posting an effective field goal percentage of 55.7%, which is OK but pales in comparison to the Nuggets’ 63% clip.
Outside of Mitchell, Joe Ingles was tasked with carrying a heavy load on the offensive end, putting up 12 shots from deep while dishing out seven assists. The Jazz counted on Jordan Clarkson a lot as well, which is like a game of Russian roulette at times. Clarkson went for 18 points but shot 2-of-7 from beyond the arc, while the Jazz were nearly 14 points worse per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
One player who is going to need to bounce back is Royce O’Neale. O’Neale plays as a defensive ace for Utah but spent most of Monday afternoon getting cooked by Murray. He couldn’t buy a bucket on the offensive end, going 1-of-6 from the field and finishing -21 on the floor. With a thin bench, Utah needs O’Neale to show up in Game 2.
After Mike Conley left the Orlando campus for the birth of his son, Jazz coach Quin Snyder opted to start rookie Juwan Morgan to give the team some size. Conley could return for Game 3, so keep an eye on what might be a revolving door in the starting lineup in the coming days.
It wasn’t the prettiest series-opener, but boy, was it a momentum starter. Denver squandered an early lead but rallied late behind the show from Jamal Murray to take Game 1. However, there is a cause for concern for Denver. The defense allowed Mitchell to cook for 57 but was also let off the hook by poor shooting from the rest of the Utah supporting cast. Expect to see Mitchell take a step back in Game 2 in an attempt to let the rest of the Jazz squad to pick up the slack.
As for Murray, he was simply electric, scoring 36 and dishing out nine assists on 65% shooting. Murray and Nikola Jokic attacked Rudy Gobert’s drop coverage and generated strong scoring opportunities.
Denver is going to look to leverage that around wing threats such as Michael Porter Jr, who had an up-and-down affair. MPJ had his moments early on, but his defensive shortcomings were exposed throughout the game. Porter found the floor for a good chunk of the fourth, but he was pulled for Monte Morris in the final moments of regulation and overtime. Despite his offensive prowess, MPJ was a bit exposed on the other end of the floor in Game 1.
Denver got crushed and put behind on the glass. Denver finished -8 in offensive rebounding, which will not fly if Utah finds its shooting stroke. Murray’s late-game heater helped mask a lot of issues that showed its head in the second half. Denver struggled to get stops, and that is not a recipe for playoff success.
In the end, the glaring difference in this one was the bench play. Denver’s second unit ended up eight points better per 100 possessions than Utah’s, paced by 50% shooting from 3-point range and getting to the line nine times as a unit. The Jazz, however, shot 3-of-13 from 3-point land and split their two free-throw attempts.
Denver only trotted out four reserves: Morris, Jerami Grant, P.J. Dozier, and Mason Plumlee. The first three played in overtime because of foul issues, but they played well.
Even before tip, Denver’s bench advantage was going to be the defining part of this series and something it could lean on throughout. There’s not a crazy drop-off from its starters to reserves, and it’s still waiting on the return of Gary Harris and Will Barton, who will both miss Game 2.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Following the crazy overtime win, Denver opened -4 with the total set at 218.5, half a point less than Monday’s closing spread and four points higher on the total.
Reflecting on what happened in Game 1, I think Denver executed a sound game plan. Jokic and Murray posted usage rates of 28% and 27%, respectively, while other Nuggets chipped in with a solid serving of possessions. All players who logged time besides Dozier and Plumlee had usage rates between 16% and 17%. Denver will succeed with a balanced attack on offense, but it will need to shore up the defense.
As for Utah, Mitchell was a one-man show, putting up a usage rate of 45%. Nearly half of the Jazz possessions ended with Mitchell involved. He can’t match that output in Game 2, and while there should be some better shooting from the likes of O’Neale, there are not enough guys to create for Utah. Ingles will likely see a heavy dose of offense, but Game 1 was typically above his level of performance. You can hope for a Clarkson game, but that may be a blessing and a curse. While Gobert should play better — he shot 1-of-6 from the line — he isn’t a primary offensive threat.
Without Conley, Utah is down weapons on both ends and could be in a 2-0 hole before he can potentially rejoin the team.
I like Denver to put together a more comprehensive performance and take care of business on its “home court.” I like this play up to -5, and if Denver is down early, I may look to fire on a second-half line — as I outlined in the Game 1 preview — if I can get a full-game spread of less than -4.
Pick: Denver -4 (up to -5)