Heat vs. Nuggets NBA Odds & Picks: Fade Denver in First Game Without Jamal Murray (Wednesday, April 14)
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn
- The Nuggets are set to play their first game since losing Jamal Murray to a torn ACL.
- The Heat have been surging lately, while the Nuggets have been reeling even before the injury.
- Who has the edge in this one? Continue reading to find out.
Heat vs. Nuggets Odds
|Moneyline||+138 / -165|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds as of Tuesday evening and via DraftKings.|
On Tuesday, the Nuggets received the devastating news that point guard Jamal Murray will miss the rest of the year. Murray had sat out four games with knee soreness and in his first game back, tore his ACL. The tragic news came after the Nuggets lost back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday. Needless to say, things are looking gloomy in Denver.
Things for Miami have been going just the opposite. After an ugly six-game skid, the Heat have won six of their past eight games. These wins have shot Miami up the Eastern Conference standings and within a game and a half of having home-court in the first round. With each game potentially having playoff implications, the Heat need to stay dialed in to avoid an off night. On the second leg of a back-to-back, keeping morale high will be extra difficult.
Let’s look further to see if Denver can bust out of their rut or if Miami can overcome the lack of rest to pull off the upset.
Miami’s recent run can largely be attributed to their great defensive play. Jimmy Butler leads the charge by taking the most difficult assignment and never easing up. His ferociousness and tenacity have helped him earn his place as the leader in steals per game.
The rest of the team has followed Butler’s lead. Miami ranks second in both field goal percentage allowed and turnovers forced per 100 possessions, per Basketball-Reference. Even more impressive, the Heat have done this while committing the 11th-fewest fouls, meaning even though they are attacking defensively, they are not playing recklessly.
What may hold the Heat back, though, is the offensive side of the court. Even during their current run, Miami’s offense has only climbed to the 20th-ranked Offensive Rating at 108.7, per NBA.com. Victor Oladipo was brought in to help kick the offense up a notch, but a knee injury will keep him out for a few games.
Miami’s offense may not be the cream of the crop, but neither is Denver’s defense. The Nuggets’ 112.4 Defensive Rating ranks 17th in the NBA. If Miami can take advantage of Denver’s defense as the Celtics and Warriors did, things could swing to the Heat’s favor quickly.
After the addition of Aaron Gordon, the Nuggets looked unstoppable, winning eight straight. Their past two games have been a much different story, though. Against Boston, everything went wrong as neither the offense nor defense showed up. Then against Golden State, the offense again struggled shooting from the perimeter, and the defense was shredded by Steph Curry’s one-man show.
Those losses and the injury to Murray put the Lakers and Trail Blazers in striking distance of Denver’s playoff seed. If they do not find a way to pull it together, they could tumble hard in the standings. In addition to team achievements, Nikola Jokic’s path to MVP could be in jeopardy if Denver falls too far.
The player who stands to gain the most from Murray’s exit is forward Michael Porter Jr. Porter would have been one of the top picks in his draft had injuries not given him a red flag. Now healthy, we have seen flashes of his scoring prowess despite being the third option for Denver.
In his first attempts at taking over, though, Porter has struggled to find his rhythm, particularly from 3. In his past four games, Porter shot just 5-of-27 from behind the arc. These numbers are extremely disappointing given his 42.1% 3-point percentage for his career.
Making 3s will be important if Denver hopes to stop bleeding. Miami allows the second most 3-point attempts per game. This should help Porter get good looks and hopefully rebuild his confidence.
Back-to-back losses and losing your star point guard has Denver entering this matchup down on their luck. A matchup against a team that plays a gritty, physical style like Miami is far from ideal.
With Denver missing Murray, Miami will primarily focus on stopping Jokic and Porter. Stopping Jokic will be far easier said than done. The man is an MVP candidate for a reason. Porter, on the other hand, could be matched up against Butler or Andre Iguodala. While Porter is very talented, Butler and Iguodala are excellent veteran defenders who will know how to make Porter uncomfortable.
On the other end, while Miami’s offense and Denver’s defense have each shown to be average at best, the edge should lie with Miami’s offense. Given the circumstance, it is hard to imagine Denver bringing the necessary defensive attitude. Miami’s offense has enough skill and patience to take advantage of opposing weaknesses.
Back Butler and Miami’s defense to lead the way in an upset.
Pick: Miami +4 to +2.5