Rockets vs. Nuggets NBA Odds & Picks: Expect High-Scoring Game in Denver
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jamal Murray
- Still shorthanded due to COVID-19 regulations, the Rockets look for their first win of the season against the Nuggets on Monday night.
- Also winless, Denver will look to get better play from point guard Jamal Murray, who has struggled shooting through two games.
- Instead of betting the spread, Phillip Kall explains why he sees value in the game total.
Rockets vs. Nuggets Odds
|Rockets Odds||+7.5 [BET NOW]|
|Nuggets Odds||-7.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+240 / -310 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||225 [BET NOW]|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
For two teams that made the Western Conference semifinals in the bubble, this season has not started ideally.
The Houston Rockets had their first game delayed due to COVID-19 contact tracing. Then, in their first live NBA action, the Rockets took a difficult overtime loss against the Blazers. One silver lining in the loss was the play of newly acquired Christian Wood. He scored 31 points to help keep the Rockets neck and neck with Portland despite missing several key players.
The playoff magic for the Denver Nuggets has worn off, having lost their first two games of the season. The biggest disappointment for Denver has been the play of point guard Jamal Murray, who was a major reason for their deep playoff run last year. Murray has come out flat to start the year, averaging 16 points per game while shooting just 34.5% from the field.
With the Rockets’ shorthanded and Murray’s inconsistent play, it’s hard to trust either team against the spread. Let’s see if we can find value on the total instead.
Despite replacing Mike D’Antoni with Stephen Silas as head coach, the first game of the new season showed us the same old Rockets.
Houston continued relying on James Harden, who had a 35% usage rate against Portland, according to Basketball Reference. Of course, relying on Harden was the reason for success in recent years and it worked on Saturday night. Harden finished with 44 points and 17 assists on 12-of-22 shooting en route to the Rockets scoring 126 points on overtime.
Houston’s offense was not what caused the coaching change, though. The defense is what forced the move to Silas, and that part of the Rockets did not look any different. Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum roasted the Rockets for a combined 76 points and 17 assists.
Things may have looked different if John Wall, Eric Gordon and Demarcus Cousins had not been forced out due to contact tracing. Wall is the only one who has shown the ability to play defense at a high level, though, and that was before his heel and Achilles injuries.
The Rockets will be forced to outscore their opponents if they hope to win this season. This means there is hope on Monday night, as Denver entered Sunday ranked 27th in Defensive Rating.
After a difficult overtime loss to start the season, the Nuggets quickly fell into a hole they couldn’t get out of against the Clippers on Christmas. Denver will need to improve their perimeter shooting against the Rockets, as their 29% 3-point shooting entered Sunday ranked 26th in the NBA.
Murray and Gary Harris are the main culprits behind the troublesome shooting, as they are a combined 4-for-22 on the year. Facing Houston could be a perfect time to get right after it allowed Portland’s guards to shoot 14 of 29 from 3-point range.
While the guards have struggled, Nikola Jokic’s play picked up right where it left off in the playoffs. His 26.5 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists with a 58% field goal percentage have shown why he is one of the best big men in the NBA.
What keeps the Nuggets out of the conversation of the NBA’s elite is their defense. Jokic has never averaged more than 0.8 blocks per game in a season, and it will be difficult for Denver to take the next step without a shot blocker patrolling the paint.
Their defense may cost Denver over the long haul, but on Monday night, Houston will have no way of stopping Jokic. At 6-foot-6, P.J. Tucker has the heart but not the size to cover the crafty big man. At 223 pounds, Wood will be thrown right off the block. Without anyone to stop Jokic and Houston shorthanded, the Nuggets could look to win in a shootout.
Despite being down three of their key contributors, Harden and Wood led Houston to 126 points. While it wasn’t enough to walk away with a win, the Rockets showed their offense cannot be overlooked as long as Harden is on the court.
Poor shooting has been the Achilles heel for the Nuggets in their slow start. Fortunately, there is hope for a bounce-back game against Houston.
Both teams seem to have taken the identity of their stars: Both have tremendous ability to score but struggle on defense. While the Rockets are shorthanded, the Nuggets haven’t shown they can be trusted at this point in the season against the spread.
According to The Action Network’s odds page, a significant amount of the early money being bet on this matchup is landing on the over. I’ll stay away from both teams, and take the over as well.
Pick: Over 225