NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Bets for Suns vs Nuggets Game 3

NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Bets for Suns vs Nuggets Game 3 article feature image

Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: The Phoenix Suns are introduced before Game 1 of the Western Conference NBA Playoffs.

  • The Suns and Nuggets are the late matchup on Friday's NBA playoff slate and offense will be a key factor.
  • Matt Moore has several angles for Friday's matchup, including the spread, total and a player prop.
  • Check out his picks and predictions for Nuggets vs Suns Game 3.

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns are up against it.

After entering the playoffs as the Western Conference favorite, the Suns find themselves down 0-2. What's worse is, in the process, they have looked outclassed in the first two games against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.

They had their chances, but that only adds to the concern. The Nuggets couldn't hit anything in Game 2 and still won with their defense.

On top of everything else, Chris Paul is out for Game 3 (and likely beyond) with a groin injury. For a team struggling to find viable offensive weapons outside of Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, losing Paul makes their problems even worse. There are a couple of takeaways on both ends as we head into Game 3. Let's dig deeper into tonight's Nuggets vs Suns matchup.

Nuggets vs. Suns

10 p.m. ET
Point Spread: Suns -4 | Over/Under: 224.5

In Game 2, the Nuggets struggled from the field, hitting just 10-of-28 on uncontested shots from players other than Jokic. And yet, thanks to Durant going 2-of-10 on contested looks, it wasn't enough.

The Suns are now faced with having to re-examine their approach.

Under head coach Monty Williams, the team's ethos has been balance. They were able to win with either offense or defense this season. After trading for Durant, they've lost some capacity in both areas. Their defense struggles with perimeter containment and rotations after losing Cam Johnson and especially Mikal Bridges. Their offense is missing a reliable fifth player, and now third-and-fifth scorer with Paul on the mend.

Against the Clippers, the Suns faced a team without two major shot creators and shot makers, and a team that, for whatever reason, refused to lean into the things they did that would give the Suns trouble. (You have switchable players and yet you played two bigs exclusively, Tyronn Lue. Make it make sense.)

Against the Nuggets, however, the Suns face a team that is containing and challenging their stars on every shot, living with the tough jumpers they make, while scoring enough on the other end to give themselves a healthy margin for error, even on a bad day.

The Suns' margin for error is, to be honest, slim. So the starting point for them to get back in the series lies with Durant. He can't have 24 points on 27 shots. That can't happen. So what needs to change?

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A Game 3 win looks like this:

  • Durant scores 35-plus on high efficiency
  • The Suns role players hit more shots at home
  • The Nuggets' role players don't
  • Phoenix wins with offense

This isn't to say that Phoenix can't get stops, just that it's more difficult given the bounty of weapons the Nuggets have compared to the Suns.

Durant tried to take more 3s in Game 2 and it was surprisingly disastrous: He shot just 2-of-12 from deep. Durant is an elite 3-point shooter, he's a 50-40-90 level shooter. However, one thing that was apparent in Game 2 is that simply taking more 3s to take more 3s is not going to work.

The Suns have to find better 3s, better in-rhythm 3s, in order to keep pace with Denver (unless Denver has an off night, which they might).

Damion Lee saw more minutes in Game 2 and I expect him to get even more in Game 3; I'm on his over 0.5 3-point attempts.

Williams also mentioned that we could see Terrence Ross and TJ Warren for the first time in the playoffs and going forward.

I want to stress that this is not a good sign: you don't want to be the first coach to make a major adjustment, and you especially don't want to be essentially throwing guys out on the floor who you had not planned on using.

It can work, though.

The concern with Ross and Warren is their defense, but the Suns honestly can't worry about that right now. They have to score and they have to score efficiently. Ross and Warren have better perimeter upside than Lee, Josh Okogie, and even Torrey Craig who shot 40% from beyond the arc this season and 62% from deep against the Clippers in Round 1.

The Suns are realizing that the only way they can win this series is with offense. None of this matters if the Suns don't hit shots, but that's their best option. I played the over in the first two games, and it went 1-1. I'll be back on it in Game 3.

Some of the best reasons for a Suns' revival in this series comes down not to how Phoenix plays, but this simple fact: the Nuggets are not good on the road. Denver is 20-23 straight up and ATS this season, regular season and playoffs.

Denver's bench has been fantastic in these playoffs and in this series. When Jokic is on the bench, the Nuggets have a +16 net rating; that's wild for one of the worst benches in the league this season. But bench players struggle offensively on the road. While Denver's small-ball bench lineups are good defensive counters, if Phoenix can just find some offense with Ross or Warren, that might flip those minutes.

Obviously, Game 3 is the entire series for Phoenix. If they lose Game 3, the series is effectively over.

The Nuggets have eight playable players in this series so far: Jokic, Jamal Murray, AaronGordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Bruce Brown, Christian Braun, and Jeff Green. The Suns have to make some of those players unplayable.

The Suns conversely have Booker, Durant … and … well… maybe Ayton, sometimes.

Maybe Lee if he can hit a shot.

Cameron Payne was supposed to be a big adjustment, but that flopped on the defensive end. Maybe Warren and Ross are two more guys, and that's what Phoenix needs.

Finally, don't be surprised if Williams finally goes to five-out lineups with Durant. He is taking a beating in a physical matchup with Gordon anyway. If the plan is to focus on offense and spacing, putting Durant at center and getting Denver's help defenders out of the paint is Step 1.

Nuggets vs. Suns Bets

I've pained a pretty bleak picture of Phoenix's situation here, because that's what the first two games showed us.

However, I'm on Suns in Game 3. There are 4s in the market, and they're worth betting. Home favorites down 2-0 in Game 3 are 58-25 (70%) straight up and 50-31-2 (62%) ATS since 2003, and 6-3 SU, 5-4 ATS since 2019.

This game probably looks more like an effort and performance game than a series solve. It's absolutely possible that Monty Williams has a silver bullet that will flip everything, whether it's playing Ross or Tucker, five-out, or something else.

But Denver has counters to those counters. They may not get to them in Game 3, but they have them.

Denver is bad enough on the road, the Suns good enough at home, and the situational spot good enough to bet the Suns to get Game 3 and set up for a monster Game 4 (where I will be on the Nuggets).

I like the over 224.5 as well. Denver may put up a clunker shooting night again; if Aaron Gordon has a bad night and Jamal Murray struggles under the physical pressure they applied in Game 2 again, all of Denver's systemic strengths won't matter if the ball doesn't go in the hole.

But an easy way for the Suns to boost the offense on top of personnel changes is to play faster. The Suns played faster at home in the regular season with Durant and in the playoffs at home than on the road. The Suns' offense will make more shots and play with more urgency in a must-win spot.

Damion Lee over 0.5 3PM is a play. In the unlikely instance that Ross or Warren props populate, I'll play those as well.

I think Phoenix gets the desperation win to ease its panic, but Denver is still in great position to win the series.

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Doug Ziefel
Jul 22, 2024 UTC