NBA Odds & Picks for Suns vs. Nuggets: Can Phoenix Stay Hot on Back-to-Back in Denver?
Suns vs. Nuggets Odds
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
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New Year’s Day 2021 can’t come soon enough for most of us, and even sweeter, it will be another holiday to feature a full day of NBA action. The Western Conference matchup between the surging Phoenix Suns and the gritty Denver Nuggets will be as electric as any of the 10 games.
The Suns will be on a back-to-back after playing Thursday night at the Jazz, while the Nuggets come in to Friday’s game with two days rest.
The Suns have been among the NBA’s most improved teams. The only team to go without a loss in last season’s bubble, the Suns have won 13 of their previous 15 games including a 4-1 record to start this season.
They now have veteran point guard Chris Paul, who seems to fit in well with the star in town, Devin Booker. Big bodies like DeAndre Ayton and Jae Crowder add size, athleticism, and defense. The Phoenix Suns are a team on the rise, no doubt.
With all that in mind, the Suns’ early success this season can be found in their bench. In three wins entering Thursday, the Phoenix bench has scored 41, 53, and 47, respectively. In the lone loss (at Sacramento), the Suns’ bench produced only 20 points. When the Suns make it a fully collaborative effort, they stand with the league’s elite.
Through the first half of Thursday night’s game in Utah, the Suns led 53-40 thanks to suffocating defense and precise outside shooting from Crowder and Cameron Payne. With excellent shooters like Booker and Paul also on the court, Phoenix can put up points in a flurry.
Coming into Friday night’s game in Denver, the Suns have two players listed on their injury report; forwards Abdel Nader (concussion) and Jalen Smith (ankle) will both be out. Per our NBA Insiders Tool, neither will be a factor even when healthy.
The Denver Nuggets have been relatively underwhelming so far. Despite performing as an elite team last year (and only a few months removed from reaching the Western Conference Finals), the Nuggets have struggled to a 1-3 record.
In particular, the defensive effort has appeared lackluster, with Denver surrendering upwards of 120 points in all three losses. In the Nuggets’ lone victory over Houston, Denver still gave up 111 points.
All-NBA big man Nikola Jokic leads the Nuggets in most statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists and steals. Undoubtedly, that’s quite an impressive stat line, especially for a center in today’s game to be leading the entire league in assists.
However, Nikola Jokic also leads the NBA in turnovers with a whopping six per game. He’ll need to handle the ball with more efficiency if Denver hopes to down the visiting Suns.
Of course, the Nuggets will need their dynamic guard Jamal Murray back in true form. After scoring nine, 23, and 21 in Denver’s first three games, Murray most recently missed Denver’s lone road game at Sacramento (Tuesday) with an elbow ailment, a game the Nuggets lost by 10.
As of Thursday, he is still listed as “day-to-day (elbow)” for Friday night’s matchup with the Suns.
To start the year, Murray seemed to struggle mostly at the 3-point line, going an ice cold 0-for-5 from 3 on opening night. However, it seems his 3-point shooting is progressively improving: hitting 4-of-11 3s in game two, and a sharp 4-of-6 in his most recent contest.
Additionally, JaMychal Green is listed as day-to-day (calf), as is Greg Whittington (left knee). Both players, along with Murray, sat out Tuesday’s game in Sacramento.
For the Nuggets to out-duel the Suns on New Year’s Day, Denver will need a harmonious blend of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter, Jr.: the same dynamic recipe that contributed to last year’s success.
With three star players employing multi-faceted skill-sets, all under the age of 26, the Nuggets can be nasty to matchup. If at full strength on Friday, expect an exciting game with the Suns.
I like the Denver moneyline if Murray plays — and our Labs Insiders projections give him a 75% chance to suit up.
Yes, the Suns are the hotter team. However, back-to-back’s are notoriously difficult when the second game is in Denver because of the elevation.
A rested Nuggets squad with Murray in the lineup may prove troublesome for the Suns, who won’t arrive in “the Mile High” until late Thursday night after battling the Jazz.
If Murray is out, I’ll probably be on Phoenix.
I’m also eyeing the over, and a few props — Jokic over assists, Booker over made 3’s, and Crowder over made 3’s.
Sign up for Labs NBA Insiders (just $25 for your first month) to track Murray’s status so you can beat the market.