Nuggets vs. Timberwolves Odds & Picks: Denver’s Bench Is a Liability
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Monte Morris #11, Nikola Jokic #15, PJ Dozier #35, and Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets.
- The Nuggets hit the road to face the Timberwolves with out their star Karl-Anthony Towns.
- Both teams struggle on defense, but Matt Moore sees value in fading one side's bench unit.
- He explains his reasoning and bets below.
Nuggets vs. Timberwolves Odds
|Nuggets Odds||-8.5 [BET NOW]|
|Timberwolves Odds||+8.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-370 / +295 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||225.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
The Denver Nuggets play the first game of two-game series against the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road Sunday. Both teams will have shorter rotations with key players out on both sides.
The Nuggets enter this matchup as large road favorites, but neither team has shown any ability to play consistent defense early in the season. Could poor defense present us with some betting value in this matchup?
Let’s break down both teams and find out.
The Nuggets are still expected to be without starting small forward Michael Porter Jr. due to contract trace exposure under the health and safety protocol.
The Nuggets’ problems go far beyond that.
Their second unit is an outright disaster. They built their team construct around multiple playmakers, but they don’t have anyone to finish plays. Denver ranks 27th in Net Rating among its bench players, bottom 10 in offense and defense.
There are positive signs, however, that the team is better than its record. They hold the third-lowest expected eFG% for opponents, while opponents have shot the fourth-highest. That suggests more luck than execution.
But the eye test shows several weak points. Poor closeouts, bad transition defense, and struggles as teams have adapted to the blitz/hedge two-on-ball defensive scheme meant to limit Jokic’s vulnerabilities.
That said, Jokic is having an absolutely bonkers start to the season. If the Nuggets hadn’t lost on a buzzer-beater in overtime to the Kings or executed to beat the Suns in a close game late, he’d be getting more attention in early MVP conversations. Jokic is averaging 23-11-13, leading the league in assists while shooting 61-41-80.
Jamal Murray started slow but has picked it up. The Nuggets have enough firepower to beat a Wolves team they’ve dominated since losing to them for a playoff spot back in April of 2018.
The Wolves are expected to be without Karl-Anthony Towns again as he recovers from a dislocated wrist.
If you’re looking to bet the Nuggets, wait to see if Towns is in, because the number will drop and Towns hasn’t had any better luck vs. the Nuggets and Jokic has owned the matchup. If you’re looking for Wolves, you still absolutely want Towns to give yourself a chance.
Without Towns the Wolves have been a mess. With D’Angelo Russell on the floor, the Wolves have been outscored by 28 points per 100 possessions. They’ve been trucked.
This is a revenge spot for Malik Beasley as well, traded by Denver at the deadline last season. The Wolves’ defense is a mess and Russell is shooting 42% from the field, Anthony Edwards the same.
They need Towns.
The best antidote for the poor scoring coming from Denver’s second-unit is likely the Wolves’ 28th-ranked defense. The best solution for the Timberwolves’ struggles is likely the Nuggets’ porous defense.
Denver has dominated this matchup for two seasons, even before Jerami Grant (the Nuggets’ biggest offseason loss) was even added to the team. The starters should have enough firepower to win the game.
However, the line is tough. Michael Malone’s Nuggets are 3-8 against the spread as a road favorite of more than eight points. They are 25-40 as road favorites of any kind, just 38.5%.
Now, contrast that with how the Nuggets have done vs. division opponents, 22-14-1 (61%) on the road ATS, but only four times have the Nuggets been favorites, going 2-2 ATS.
The Nuggets are not playing well right now, and laying -8.5 on the road is a bit much, but I don’t trust the Wolves to hang, either.
I will get in on the second quarter, however.
The Wolves have held opponents to a 100 Offensive Rating in the second quarter in four of their five games — the lone exception was against the mighty Clippers. They’ve won three of the five second quarters, including vs. the Wizards without Towns last game.
Denver has lost three of its five second quarters and without Porter the Nuggets have no balance on the second unit. Malone has repeatedly made mention of how he needs to not play Jokic and Murray so many minutes.
Their second unit struggles to score.
You can get advanced lines on the second quarter at multiple books, and if not, just wait for the live line. But the Wolves are the play. I lean Denver on the game spread, and to the under on the total despite the bad defenses, but my best bet is on the second quarter.
Pick: Timberwolves +2.5 2Q | Under 59.5 total 2Q points