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NBA Odds & Pick for Nuggets vs. Blazers: Be Contrarian in Crucial Game for Portland (Wednesday, April 21)

NBA Odds & Pick for Nuggets vs. Blazers: Be Contrarian in Crucial Game for Portland (Wednesday, April 21) article feature image

Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokić, left, and Aaron Gordon of the Denver Nuggets.

  • The Nuggets are a short favorite over the Trail Blazers (10 p.m. ET) in a game with big playoff implications for Portland.
  • The Blazers will get Damian Lillard back from injury, and bettors might flock to the underdog, but Brandon Anderson is going contrarian and siding with Denver.
  • Get his full Nuggets vs. Blazers pick and preview below.

Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers Odds

Nuggets Odds -1.5
Trail Blazers Odds +1.5
Moneyline -125 / -104
Over/Under 225.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds as of Wednesday morning via PointsBet.

Damian Lillard returns to the court Wednesday and that means everything for a game that feels like it could be Portland’s last stand.

The Trail Blazers are hanging on by a thread right now. They’re the No. 6 seed at the moment,  but slipping fast. And remember, it’s a big deal dropping even one slot this year because it would throw the Blazers into the play-in tournament.

The Denver Nuggets are holding fast to the No. 4 seed, going 3-0 since Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury. A victory here would put some real distance between Denver and the No. 6 seed, making it very likely it will stay in that No. 4 vs. No. 5 playoff matchup.

Lose this game and the battle for those three positions tighten up, which means teams could even end up meeting in an opening first-round series.

The Blazers gave all they had Tuesday, but came up a point short against the Los Angeles Clippers. Portland was missing Lillard and Jusuf Nurkić, but both return in this spot for what could be a tired team.

Is this Portland’s last stand? Let’s take a look at this matchup and see what might be in store.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets remain top five in Net Rating and top three in Offensive Efficiency, per Basketball Reference. Denver has won 11 of its last 13 games, even despite missing Jamal Murray for seven of them.

The Nuggets are 6-3 now without Murray, though they’re just 4-5 against the spread. Amazingly, Denver has been favored in every game without its star. That’s in part because Denver of a pretty easy schedule in Murray’s absence. They’ve played Sacramento twice, Detroit, San Antonio’s (twice), Boston, Miami, Houston and Memphis. Going 6-3 sounds a little less impressive now.

Denver game overs are 7-2 in games without Murray, and they’re covering the total by almost 10 points per game. Nuggets’ games with Murray this season averaged 222.7 PPG, while games without him have totaled 232.5 points. Again, though, not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents or defenses there.

Nikola Jokić is the heavy Most Valuable Player favorite, continuing to put up absurd numbers even without Murray. He’s coming off 47 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in a double-overtime win over Memphis. Jokić is averaging 29.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 10.7 assists in nine games without Murray. He’s scored at least 25 in every one of those games and had recorded double-digit assists in all of them until the last two.

Michael Porter Jr. has also stepped up his game. He has scored at least 20 points in 10 of his last 11 outings, averaging 22.3 PPG during that stretch. He’s stepping up without Murray, finding a new role next to Aaron Gordon. Porter’s 3-point assists have gone from 5.4 per game to 7.8 per game over the last six contests, so that’s boosting his scoring.

The story of this game will likely come inside the arc, though. Denver’s offense ranks in the top 20% in made 2-pointers and 2-point percentage, plus the team is second in offensive rebounding. On defense, Denver is top 20% in 2-point attempts allowed, but bottom 20% in 2-point percentage.

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Portland Trail Blazers

We’ll see exactly what we get from Lillard in this one, but knowing him, it’ll be everything he’s got. Nurkić is back in the lineup as well. He’s been starting and playing around 22 minutes per game, though he has at least four assists in six of his last eight games.

The Blazers have actually hung tough at 3-2 without Lillard, and they should probably be 4-1 if they hadn’t blown that winnable game against the Los Angeles Clippers. However, they also benefited from a softer schedule without their superstar. One things is very clear, though. Portland isn’t the same team without its superstar.

Fortunately for the Blazers, Lillard is back. Although Portland’s offense is not quite as lethal as Denver’s attack, it also ranks near the top of the league. They don’t want this game to be played inside the arc. Portland attempts the second fewest 2s in the NBA, plus it ranks near the bottom in 2-point percentage.

No, the Blazers want to win this game from deep since they make the second most 3s in the league. That can make Portland very streaky, and it means the it could miss some easy scoring opportunities against Denver.

Defensively, Portland is bad. The Blazers are bottom 10 in the NBA in all defensive four factors. They’re not good on the glass, don’t force many turnovers, foul a lot and give up too many easy looks. Most worryingly, Portland ranks third worst in 2-point percentage allowed. And unlike the Blazers, Denver is built to take advantage of that lack of defense inside the arc.

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Nuggets-Trail Blazers Pick

I’ll be eyeing some props once the lines post. I’m definitely looking for a Jokić over here. He and Nurkić have history after playing together in Denver, but this shapes up as a game for the MVP favorite to slice up a terrible defense.

Portland’s big men don’t have the foot speed to defend Jokić’s shooting on the perimeter, and the minute they start to try, he will slice and dice the Blazers with his passing skills.

If I can play Jokić to go over 25 points or 10 assists, I’ll look hard at that line. I’ll also think hard about Porter going over 20 points if that line stays about where it’s been lately.

This feels like the Blazers’ last stand, and I expect a lot of money to come in on Portland due to the fact Lillard is returning. And I hate betting against Lillard. However, the 2-point advantage here is glaring in Denver’s favor, and while Portland is getting its superstar back, the Nuggets already have theirs and he’s healthy and absolutely balling at the moment.

I’m going contrarian here. Last stands are great, but MVPs are made for the moment and last stands have to end sometime. Jokić is the healthier, better standout with the better supporting cast even with Murray out for the season.

Pick: Nuggets -1.5

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