Nuggets vs. Suns Odds & Picks: Denver the Smart Play as Short Underdogs (Jan. 22)

Nuggets vs. Suns Odds & Picks: Denver the Smart Play as Short Underdogs (Jan. 22) article feature image
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Matthew Stockman/Getty Images. Pictured: Denver’s Nikola Jokic.

  • The Nuggets and Suns play the first leg of a back-to-back on Friday night in Phoenix.
  • Two slow-paced Western Conference contenders attempt to improve their playoff chances.
  • Read the full preview and betting prediction below.

Nuggets vs. Suns Odds

Nuggets Odds +1.5
Suns Odds -1.5
Moneyline +100 / -120
Over/Under 218.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of Friday morning and via BetMGM.

The Nuggets look to avenge their 106-103 New Year’s Day loss to the Suns as they open this back-to-back set in Phoenix.

The Nuggets won their last game against the Thunder on Tuesday, while Phoenix looks to build off of its Wednesday night win over the Rockets.

Both of these teams are top-10 in Net Rating, so we can expect a closely contested battle between a pair of Western Conference contenders.

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Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets may be without Michael Porter, Jr. who is listed as questionable and has not played since Dec. 29 after being placed in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Check on his availability using our Labs Insiders Tool, and even if he does play he may not play his full allotment of minutes.

The Nuggets have been awesome offensively this season. They have the third-best Offensive Rating on the season and they’ve maintained a similar Offensive Rating even without Porter, per NBA Advanced Stats. The biggest difference, which may or may not be surprising, is the Nuggets are over two points better on defense in the past three weeks without MPJ than with him. If he does play, look for a couple extra points to be added to this total.

One thing that’s been plaguing the Nuggets defensively is they have the fourth-worst eFG% (56.1%) allowed despite having the sixth-best expected eFG% allowed (53.3%), per Cleaning the Glass. The Nuggets could see some positive regression coming their way, but their individual defenders aren’t ideal.


Phoenix Suns

The Suns have a few players on the injury report, they’ll be without Dario Saric and Damian Jones due to health and safety protocols, but Jalen Smith has been upgraded to available after missing the last two games for the same reason.

The Suns also have a top-10 offense and they have the ninth-best eFG% (55.6%), but they have the 26th-worst expected eFG% (52.8%), per Cleaning the Glass.

One of the issues the Suns have is they take the second-most midrange shots and the most long midrange shots (outside of ~14 feet). This shot is incredibly inefficient, but the Suns continue to have the highest FG% on all midrange shots in the NBA.

The Suns are also a top-10 team defensively, and a big reason for that is their half-court defense because they limit opponents’ three-point opportunities.

However, on the 3-point shots that they give up, the Suns get crushed on corner 3s and opponents shoot nearly 50% from there, per Cleaning the Glass. This is a shot they will try to limit the Nuggets from attempting because the Nuggets shoot nearly 47.7% from the corner, the third-best mark in the league.

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Nuggets-Suns Pick

This matchup pits two teams that are contending for playoff spots in a crowded Western Conference in the first game of two game mini series.

The Nuggets and the Suns both play at a sub-99 pace, which is would be two of the slowest paces in the league, 23rd and 28th respectively. This gives me a lean on the Under (218), but I’d stay away from it if Porter is active due to his defensive deficiencies.

Despite these two teams having top-10 offenses, given the eFG% data, I trust the Nuggets more. Nikola Jokic has been a floor general, and a legitimate MVP candidate, as he leads the NBA in assists per game. His passes lead to 10.1 3-point attempts per game for the Nuggets and they shoot 44% on those attempts, per NBA Advanced Stats. Jokic has incredible floor vision, and he should be able to find those corner threes that the Suns are weak against.

The Nuggets have also seen a Steam move in their favor at +2. Additionally, at the time of this writing the Nuggets are receiving 37% of the spread bets but those bets account for 89% of the money.

This steam move and bets-to-money ratio corresponds with the line movement as the line has moved from Nuggets +2.5 down to +1.5. I’d follow the money here and back the Nuggets down to a PK.

Pick: Nuggets +1.5

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