Bulls vs. Nuggets NBA Odds & Picks: Surging Denver Should Dominate (Friday, March 19)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images. Pictured: Michael Porter Jr.
- The Bulls are in the thick of the playoff race in the East, but have struggled against winning teams.
- The Nuggets are surging in a battle for home court in the Western Conference playoffs.
- Who has the edge on Friday in Denver? Continue reading to find out.
Bulls vs. Nuggets Odds
|Moneyline||+225 / -275|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds as of Thursday evening and via DraftKings.|
The Bulls enter Friday in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and are on the verge of breaking their four-year playoff drought. With the season drawing closer to its end, each game grows increasingly important. Being able to turn games where they are heavy underdogs — like this one — into wins would go a long way to improving their playoff odds.
While making the playoffs motivates the Bulls, the Nuggets’ inspiration comes from earning the best seed possible. In the West, four teams sit within one loss of each other for the 4-7 seeds. The tight competition means one or two wins could make the difference between homecourt and traveling to play the second seed.
With so much on the line for both teams, a hard-fought battle lies ahead. Let’s dig deeper to see who has the edge.
The Bulls’ improvement comes thanks mostly to their star, Zach LaVine, taking his game to another level. His improvement from 25.5 points per game to 28.4 is only a mild jump.
His efficiency in creating those points, though, has been what has made the difference. For his career, LaVine shoots 45.8% from the field and 38.5% from deep. Those numbers have skyrocketed to 53.1% from the field and 44.1% from deep so far this season.
LaVine’s improvement completely raised the performance of Chicago’s offense. Last season, the Bulls’ offensive rating ranked 27th at a measly 106.7, per Basketball-Reference. This year, that is all the way up to 17th and a respectable 111.9 mark.
The Bulls’ defense may force the offense to take it up a notch against the Nuggets. Chicago’s defense has played respectably in general, ranking 14th in defensive rating at 111.9.
However, the Bulls’ flaw has been stopping teams inside, as they allow a 54.6% field-goal percentage on 2-point shots. Against Denver’s star big man Nikola Jokic, this could be even more of a problem than usual.
The Nuggets have been doing everything they can to work their way up the Western Conference standings. Denver seems to have found its rhythm in winning seven of its last eight.
The difference for the Nuggets has been their offensive play. In the past eight games, Denver averages 117.6 points per game on 51.3% shooting.
Jokic and Jamal Murray often receive the praise for the dominance of the Nuggets’ offense. While Jokic and Murray deserve the lion’s share of the credit, Michael Porter Jr.’s play has been the difference in their recent run. Porter’s 20.5 points per game on 63.3% shooting have been extraordinary. If Porter maintains this level of play, Denver’s dynamic duo could turn into a big three.
Denver’s offense has not been the only thing humming during its run. The defense has held opponents to only 104.5 points per game on 44.5% shooting.
Pace will play a key part in this game. The Bulls play at the sixth-fastest pace (101.1) to allow LaVine to utilize his athleticism. The Nuggets play at the second-slowest pace so they can play through Jokic.
The Nuggets’ recent success both offensively and defensively should give them the edge in setting the tone. If they can, they will slow down the effectiveness of LaVine and the rest of the Bulls’ offense.
While Denver’s recent dominance gives them a reason to be trusted, Chicago’s play against winning teams does the opposite. Per our BetLabs data, The Bulls are 4-11 against the spread when playing winning teams.
The Bulls being a borderline playoff team shows they have started their ascent out of the bottom of the NBA. Unfortunately, struggling this much against winning teams also shows that their young core needs another year or two before really competing.
On the other hand, the Nuggets are working hard to show their run last year was not an accident. Their +5.6 net rating (fifth-best in the league) puts them among the elite, even if their record doesn’t.
Back Denver to win convincingly in its pursuit of a home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Pick: Nuggets -7 to -8