NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Bets for Nuggets vs Suns Game 6
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns, Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets during the Western Conference semifinals of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
- The Denver Nuggets are one win away from the Western Conference Finals, but the Phoenix Suns have proven to be a difficult team to beat at home.
- Matt Moore has multiple betting predictions for Thursday's matchup, including the spread, total and a player prop.
- Check out his picks for Nuggets vs. Suns Game 6.
Nuggets vs. Suns Odds
The Suns tied their series against Denver 2-2 by winning two straight in Phoenix. To do so, they needed the following:
- Devin Booker to score 83 points on 34-of-43 shooting (79%)
- Landy Shamet to add 17 in Game 4
- The Suns’ bench to outscore Denver’s 62-31
- Non-Jokic-or-Murray starters to score a combined 64 points in the two games (an average of 11 points per game for Michael Porter Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Aaron Gordon)
- Denver to shoot 16-of-50 from 3-point range in the two games for one of the best shooting teams in the league this season.
The Suns won both games by a combined 12 points.
Now, certainly, things went wrong for the Suns. Kevin Durant has not had a Kevin Durant Game. They are without their starting point guard Chris Paul (who is also out for Game 6). Jokic went for 53 in Game 4.
But much of this tells a pretty clear story: a lot has to go right for the Suns and simultaneously wrong for the Nuggets just for the Suns to win close.
If Devin Booker is anything less than prolific, the Suns are probably doomed. (There is a chance that Durant goes for 50; he can do that at any point.)
If role players like Cameron Payne, Shamet, TJ Warren, and Terrence Ross are cold from 3 on the weakside corner 3s the Nuggets are allowing when they double Booker, the Suns are probably doomed.
If the Nuggets’ bench is anything short of a disaster, with Jeff Green -36 in the two games in Phoenix, the Suns are probably doomed.
If Booker is only great and not Jordan levels, the role players are only good, not great, and the Nuggets’ bench is only bad but not awful, the Nuggets can still win behind Jokic’s brilliance.
If the Nuggets have fewer turnovers than the Suns (Phoenix is +13 in points off turnovers in wins, -7 in losses, and Denver is 15-10 under Michael Malone in the playoffs when they have fewer turnovers than their opponent), the Suns are probably doomed.
There are so many paths for the Nuggets to win this game (and the series). Jokic dominates in a spectacular scoring performance, and the defense plays well enough (or the Suns just miss shots). The Nuggets play team ball like in Game 5 and get contributions from everyone. Murray goes off for 40, like in Game 1. The Nuggets hit all their 3s and just outpace the Suns with the math game.
This is why I can tell you, categorically, the number is wrong. Phoenix, at this point in the series, with how Denver has slowly adjusted over the series, should not be underdogs, even on the road, even against a team this good.
Now, that doesn’t matter since this season, favorites that win are 86% against the spread, and dogs that cover are 79% straight up.
But Denver’s the better team. They can lose this series, they’re not so good that shooting variance can’t decide it. But they should not be more than a 2-point dog here.
On a Road to Nowhere
So how does Denver lose? Well, quite frankly, they’re awful on the road.
Denver is 20-25 this season on the road and a dreadful 6-13 as an underdog on the road (10-9 ATS as a road dog).
Nikola Jokic sat in some of those games, but even with Jokic, the Nuggets are 4-8 on the road as a dog with Jokic (including this series), and 18-20 overall with Jokic on the floor on the road.
Their bench struggling on the road was not an outlier. It was completely in line with what happened this season. Denver had the second-worst point differential for bench unit players on the road this season.
So all the things that the Suns need to have happen are all more likely on the road. They’re very unlikely to all occur in Denver, but they are more likely (obviously, having happened twice already) on the road.
Can they all happen again? With Booker dealing with a foot injury after playing heavy minutes for the past month?
The Suns’ best chance may lie not with how well they play but how poorly Denver plays. (Along with Devin Booker being awesome.)
The Game 6 Trend
The one thing to note, the trend says Nuggets here.
Teams that are home down 3-2 are 39-69 (36%) since 2003. Favorites are still just 29-34 (46%). Teams down 3-2 at home after losing Game 5 (so it was 2-2, and they lost Game 5) are 23-39.
For whatever reason, teams simply have not kept their seasons alive very often in this spot.
Oh, one more trend:
Unders in Game 6s
- 190-140-12 (57.6%) since 2003
- 96-74-2 (56.5%) since 2013
- 34-26 (51.4%) in the last five years
The Jokic Minutes
Jokic now leads the conference semifinals in points, rebounds, and assists. That’s crazy. He’s shooting 58-47-83. That’s crazy. The Nuggets are +46 when he’s on the floor. (Note, Aaron Gordon has the best plus-minus in the second round with a +71 raw plus-minus. That, also, is crazy.)
The Suns have committed throughout the series to trying to stay home on Jokic and make him a scorer. Now, in his career, Jokic is 1-3 when scoring 39 or more points and 0-3 when scoring 40 or more.
But the Suns simply aren’t good enough to keep him from racking up assists anyway, and he’s dismantling Deandre Ayton. The Nuggets have outscored Phoenix by 49 points in the 137 minutes where Ayton and Jokic have shared the floor.
Shockingly, the Nuggets are -7 in the 40 minutes where Jokic and Jock Landale are on the floor together.
Landale played just 16 minutes in Game 5. Not to go all Brian Windhorst here, but… why would Monty Williams do that?
Ayton is listed as questionable for Game 6 with a rib contusion (bruise). He probably plays. But part of me wonders if Williams was literally saving Landale for Game 6. Landale might not be able to play 35 minutes for a variety of reasons; he played 30 just once this season, a late-season rest affair vs. the Lakers. He played 20 or more just 15 times this season, including twice in this series.
But the Suns have to survive the Jokic minutes. They can feast on the Nuggets’ bench, but it won’t matter if Jokic wins his by double digits. Jokic was +2 in Phoenix’s Game 4 win Sunday, and they only won by 5.
Again, the margin for error here is slim.
The Suns have unsuccessfully tried attacking Jokic in pick and roll to wear him out and get him in foul trouble. He’s blitzing Devin Booker every time Booker tries to bring him into the action. They may need to try and force more switches with Durant as the primary ballhandler instead of KD’s usual ISO diet.
How I’m Betting Nuggets vs. Suns
I’m trusting the trend and playing the Nuggets, despite knowing that they are terrible on the road, and the most likely scenario here is a 40-burger from Book as they force this back to Denver for a Game 7.
But those are narratives. And the Nuggets have been the better team throughout the course of the series, the best team in the West this season, the historical trends are on their side, and Booker’s foot did not seem right in the second half. I’ll take the moneyline with the Nuggets.
I’ll also play the under. Historically that’s the move, and the most likely scenario for a Nuggets win is a slow, grind-it-out affair with the Suns unable to keep up the fastbreak pressure they enjoyed in Games 3 and 4, and the most likely scenario for a Suns win is Denver shooting horribly on the road.
I’ll also look for Landale over props.
The Picks: Nuggets +135 ML | Under 226.5 | Jock Landale Over 10.5 Points and Rebounds
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