NBA Odds & Picks for Nuggets vs. Kings: Denver Shows Betting Value (Feb. 6)
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Malone (left) and Nikola Jokic (right).
- The Sacramento Kings will take on the Denver Nuggets in a Western Conference battle on Saturday.
- The Kings have one each of the past two matchups between the teams, but Kenny Ducey thinks the Nuggets are in a good place heading into this contest.
- Check out Ducey's full betting preview complete with updated odds and a pick below.
Nuggets vs. Kings Odds
|Moneyline||-155 / +130|
|Time||5 p.m. ET|
The Sacramento Kings have transformed into against-the-spread heroes lately and will face their toughest test on Saturday afternoon against the Denver Nuggets, who will be out for redemption after blowing a double-digit halftime lead to the Lakers on Thursday and losing by 21.
Is Sacramento’s run legit, or will its lackluster defense be its undoing against one of the league’s most stacked offenses? Let’s dig into the matchup and see if we can find value on either side.
What happened? The Nuggets looked to be in total control of the Lakers and well on their way to a seventh win in eight games, but their defense relented in the second half against the Lakers and led to a total collapse on Thursday night.
It was a discouraging sight to see Talen Horton-Tucker and Montrezl Harrell tear apart Denver’s defensive unit considering the leaps and bounds it had made over the past few weeks.
While the Nuggets are sure to have a much easier time on offense, going from facing the league’s best defense to playing the team dead last in Defensive Rating, the same can’t be said for Denver’s defense.
Sacramento ranks 10th in points scored per 100 possessions this year and possesses some lethal slashers and shooters who we’ll touch on in a bit.
That will pose some issues for Denver, which had a difficult time with the aforementioned Horton-Tucker on Thursday along with LeBron James, Dennis Schroeder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Those four combined to drive to the bucket 27 times (Horton-Tucker himself had 11 drives), according to Second Spectrum, and made 12-of-17 field goal attempts off of the play.
Despite a letdown against Los Angeles, Denver’s defense has really stepped it up over a nine-game run in which it’s won seven games.
Once a glaring weakness, the defense has allowed the 11th-fewest points per 100 possessions in that timeframe and just 34.9% shooting from 3, the seventh-best mark in the NBA.
While the Nuggets had issues collapsing in the paint to stop some of L.A.’s slashers, they still held the Lakers to just 39.1% shooting, which was their best performance to date.
Injury-wise, Denver still won’t have starting guard Gary Harris here, but Will Barton has been superb in his place all season long.
He, along with the rest of Denver’s starting unit, will need to put forth a better performance on offense after a flat showing on Thursday.
The Nuggets were able to somewhat hold L.A. in check, and that performance on defense deserved a better offensive showing. The final score never should have been so lopsided.
The Kings are red-hot, winning five of six and covering the spread in every game, but they haven’t faced an opponent quite as lethal as the Nuggets.
Their most recent triumph, a win (and cover) against the Boston Celtics, was the closest thing to a major win they’ve had during the run, but it’s important to note that it came on the second night of a back-to-back against a Celtics team that didn’t have its starting point guard in Kemba Walker.
Still, the story was the same for Sacramento. The Kings played defense.
That’s right — defense. Stopping opponents from scoring the basketball. Something that the Kings have had a more adverse time doing than anyone in the NBA, ranking dead last all year with a 117.2 Defensive Rating.
Over the past six games, Sacramento actually rates as the 11th-best defense, allowing 110.4 points per 100 possessions, and the defense has allowed just 33.7% of 3s to fall over that span, the fourth-best rate in the league.
Saturday will be the litmus test for this defensive unit, a meeting with one of the most potent offenses in basketball. Nikola Jokic has singlehandedly crushed the souls of opposing defenders on that end of the floor, and until he was stymied by the league’s stingiest defense, was the hottest player in basketball.
On offense, the Kings have been consistently above average, but one thing I will be looking out for is their success from beyond the arc, particularly on catch-and-shoot 3s.
The Nuggets have allowed triples to fall at a 39.8% clip all season long, one of the worst marks in the NBA, and the Kings have ranked 11th in 3-point percentage on catch-and-shoots.
Their shooters have been great all year — Tyrese Haliburton and Harrison Barnes are north of 40% from the arc this season — and Buddy Hield has snapped out of his funk and come alive of late, shooting nearly 44% from 3 over the Kings’ six-game run.
Finally, to the earlier point of the Nuggets’ struggle to defend the cutters of Los Angeles, it’s worth noting that only four players have driven to the basket more than De’Aaron Fox this season, and Barnes’ assist rate out of drives has been an impressive 16%.
This team should be able to attack Denver where it hurts.
The Kings could certainly keep this one close, but Denver’s tools on offense should bring the Kings crashing back down to Earth.
Sacramento’s recent six-game stretch has been fun, but its improved defensive performances are likely inflated due to weak competition, making the larger sample of its whole season a much better predictor of how Saturday’s game should go.
The elephant in the room here is the past two games between these two teams. Sacramento has beaten Denver in both meetings, but the two games couldn’t have been more different.
On opening night, the Nuggets looked rusty on offense, and the Kings as a result allowed a solid 108.9 points per 100 plays.
The next time they played, six games later, the Kings’ Defensive Rating jumped to 113.9, more in line with what we’ve seen from them all year, due to a refined offensive attack on the part of Denver.
What both of those games — played in December — didn’t feature was the type of defensive effort we’ve become accustomed to seeing lately from Denver.
The Nuggets’ ability to lock down the Lakers (for a few quarters, anyway) was certainly noteworthy, and holding down quality offenses in the Jazz and Suns lately has proven Denver’s early-season issues with defense to be a thing of the past.
In a revenge spot, and in need of a win to get back on track, the Nuggets should find a much easier time scoring on a Kings team whose defense will likely see some regression. I’m backing Denver with the points.
Pick: Nuggets -2.5 (-115)