Clippers vs. Nuggets Odds & Picks: Bet Kawhi & Co. to Exact Christmas Revenge
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers and Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets.
- Friday's NBA Christmas Day slate concludes at 10:30 p.m. ET with a showdown between the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets.
- Will the Clippers avenge their Playoff loss to the Nuggets, or will Denver play spoiler?
- Joe Dellera breaks down the matchup and gives his betting pick below.
Clippers vs. Nuggets Odds
|Clippers Odds||-2.5 [BET NOW]|
|Nuggets Odds||+2.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-140/+115 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||224.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||10:30 p.m. ET|
The Los Angeles Clippers look to avenge last season’s Western Conference semifinals playoffs loss to the Denver Nuggets in the final Christmas Day matchup of the Friday NBA slate.
Will the Clippers take care of business as road favorites or will the Nuggets extend their winning streak to four straight against LA? I’ll break down the matchup below.
Los Angeles Clippers
While superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George returned for the Clippers this season, they lost some significant rotation pieces: reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Montrezl Harrell (Lakers), JaMychal Green (Nuggets), and Landry Shamet (Nets). To counterbalance this, the Clippers acquired Luke Kennard, Serge Ibaka, and Nicolas Batum.
Does this make them better? I think so.
One of the major problems with Harrell is that he was consistently hunted on defense and didn’t have the lateral quickness to adjust. Ibaka, who already developed a rapport with Leonard in during their title run with the Raptors, is a much better compliment for this Clippers team.
Not only is it a better chemistry fit, he spaces the floor exponentially better as a career 36.1% 3-point shooter vs. Harrell who missed all 18 of his 3-point attempts last season, per Basketball Reference. Ibaka may not be the same defender he was during his Oklahoma City days, but he is a much more reliable option than Harrell.
The Clippers continue to take a tremendous amount of long range 2-point shots, which is concerning. Last season they hoisted 11.8% of their shots from long-mid range (beyond of 14 feet but inside the arc), and in this season’s opener they were right in line with this at 12%, per Cleaning the Glass.
The fact that its the least efficient shot in basketball has not mattered as much because Leonard and George are elite mid-range shooters, but it narrows the margin for error. Luckily for the Clippers, the Nuggets gave up the third-highest shooting percentage on long-mid range shots during the 2019-2020 season, per Cleaning the Glass.
Of note, Marcus Morris, who missed the last game is currently listed as questionable (knee). Keep an eye on his status with our NBA Insiders tool.
The Nuggets lost two critical pieces of their team, Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee. While Grant was replaced by JaMychal Green, who he provides shooting and some defense, it’s still a slight downgrade. Green is also listed as questionable for this matchup (calf).
Grant’s length will be tough to replace — he’s listed at 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. That’s exactly the type of defender you want to cover Leonard or George.
It’s also important to remember that Will Barton did not play in the playoffs. He had been one of the more reliable players for the Nuggets up until his injury and improved their defense. The Nuggets’ Defensive Rating increased by nearly six points when Barton was off the court, per NBA Advanced Stats.
However, he’s not the ideal replacement defender for Grant with regards to covering Leonard. Looking at the matchup data, which is admittedly wonky, (as Matt Moore would say) in the 9.9 partial possessions where Barton covered Kawhi, he shot 66.7% from the floor.
Well, what about covering George? In 17.4 partial possessions George shot 75%, per NBA Advanced Stats.
Last season the Clippers were just 4-6 against the spread vs. Nuggets, including a paltry 2-5 ATS in their playoff series, per our Bet Labs database. So, let’s back the Nuggets here, right? Not so fast.
When the Clippers were at full strength last season, the smallest spread between these two teams was Clippers -5.5. At the time of this writing, the Clippers are listed at -2.5 after an initial open of -1.
When the Clippers become bigger favorites they are 13-8-0 ATS since last regular season, returning a 20.6% ROI. This matches up well with another trend. Since he started coaching the Nuggets, Mike Malone is just 22-25-1 ATS as a home dog during the regular season.
I think this line is too short, the Clippers will come out firing and the Nuggets don’t really have an answer for defending Leonard or George. The Nuggets can keep it close, especially if Jamal Murray gets hot, but -2.5 is too short to pass up.
Pick: Clippers -2.5