NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Bets for Suns vs Nuggets Game 4
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images. Pictured: Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets.
Playoff series often undergo what I call “plot twists.” We set stories for these series and think that what’s happened so far is the story. Then, as the series progresses, adjustments, injuries, and big plays change the course of the series, the playoffs, league history.
The story after Games 1 and 2 of Nuggets–Suns was that the Nuggets looked like a clear step above. Devin Booker and Kevin Durant were sensational, even when Durant struggled in Game 2, but the Nuggets were the better team.
Truth be told, Game 3 wasn’t a plot twist. First game at home, down 2-0, a desperation game. Booker’s incredible 47-point, 20-of-25 performance was legendary but not entirely unexpected in the spot. There was nothing surprising about the Suns getting a game they had to win. Let’s dive into the angles and takeaways for Nuggets vs. Suns Game 4.
Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns
Game 4 is where the plot splits.
If the Suns win, it’s a 2-2 series and all the advantages Denver has held are meaningless. It won’t matter that Denver held a second-half lead or was within single digits late in Game 3. The Suns will have all the momentum and will have found the counters necessary to even the Nuggets’ roster and tactical advantages.
But if the Nuggets win … that’s a wrap. The Suns may extend the series to 6 or 7 games, but they won’t win three in a row vs. the Nuggets with two back up at a mile high.
Denver has a chance to take the next step in their evolution in Game 4. The Nuggets under Michael Malone had never won a series in less than seven games before their five-game win over the Wolves.
This would be a different matter. They would take a 3-1 lead on the Western Conference pre-playoff favorite. They would show that they can win on the road vs. a top-level team and take a commanding lead vs. a team considered to be a real contender.
A loss shakes everything in their confidence. The Suns will have won two in a row and honestly, were it not for a terrible Durant game in Game 2, you can say the Suns would be up 3-1 on their own.
The Nuggets have been the better team in this series, but none of that matters if they allow this to become a best-of-three.
Mountain-Sized Margin for Error
In Game 3, the Nuggets had:
- More points in the paint
- More offensive rebounds
- More made 3’s
- More free throws attempted
Teams in the playoffs with those advantages were 108-13 (89%) straight up going into Game 3.
However, the Suns have two such wins after Game 3 in these playoffs when trailing in those categories.
Still, if you’re Phoenix, you wanted Game 3 to be a blowout. The Suns come out a house of fire, dominate, and Booker and Durant finally get to rest for the fourth quarter.
Instead, this was winnable for Denver. They held a second-half lead. They won in key areas. And it took one of the best scoring performances in the playoffs that we’ve seen in recent years from Booker to come away with a 10-point win.
Denver’s defensive intensity and attention to detail was poor; they played less aggressively at the level of the screen, allowing Booker to find space. They were caught out of position when Booker and Durant rejected the screen and used the Nuggets’ scheme against them.
Jamal Murray is now 1-of-15 from beyond the arc in his last two games. Denver’s fastbreak defense was porous, even without a huge turnover disparity. Denver’s bench lost its minutes for the first time this series, Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope struggled the way role players do on the road.
All that … and this was winnable.
You can point to Durant’s struggles from the field, but he still found his way to 39 points. Durant and Booker are absolutely capable of going for 90 points consistently. But they went for 86 in this game and still only got 28 points from the rest of the team.
The question is what the probability is for the Suns to have a better collective offensive game coming vs. what are the odds the Nuggets have a better offensive game coming after struggling in Game 3?
Can the Suns keep the pace advantage? And win the rebounding battle? And stay within range of made 3’s so there’s not a math problem? And get monster performances from Booker and KD? And get another poor outing from Murray?
The Suns need a lot from Game 3 to repeat itself, and not all of it is within their control.
Among the adjustments the Suns made in Game 3 was adding TJ Warren and Terrence Ross to the rotation. Ross hit one of the Suns’ nine 3s, while Warren chipped in seven points, including two huge shots late.
If the books provide props on Warren, he’s worth playing the over on points and rebounds. Warren provides the best combination of scoring as the fifth option and rebounding help in the starting unit of the Suns’ options for that last player to go with Booker, KD, Cameron Payne (replacing Chris Paul), and a center.
That five-man lineup has five viable offensive threats, rebounding, and while Warren is not a good defender, he’s not someone the Nuggets can take advantage of, either.
You’ll notice I said center and not Deandre Ayton after Ayton was benched down the stretch and stormed off from the team late in Game 3. Ayton re-engaged with the team and was supporting teammates late. But Jock Landale is not someone Jokic is familiar with. He can use his athleticism and energy on the glass, runs the floor, and gives you what you need in this matchup.
Don’t be surprised if Landale closes or winds up playing more minutes than Ayton in the rest of this series. Monty Williams has been looking for an excuse not to play Ayton, and the situation is calling for it.
For the Nuggets, props will mostly depend on role players calming down in the second road game, like Gordon, and if Murray will get the offense more involved. Murray has averaged a high number of assists over the last two months, but the majority in the playoffs have simply gone to Joker in the two-man game.
Denver needs to get their other guys involved, but if Murray is spamming pick-and-roll constantly, that gets more difficult.
How I’m Betting Suns vs. Nuggets Game 4
I do think the Nuggets put the hammer down in Game 4. It took too much for Phoenix to win in Game 3. Can the Nuggets play worse? Absolutely. But the probability is higher that their floor gives them a chance of beating Phoenix even in a poor performance
If you disagree, hammer Booker points + rebounds + assists and maybe SGP it with Durant. Those are the guys. Cameron Payne and Warren can contribute, but ultimately, it’s going to take more incredible games from Booker and KD for the Suns to stay alive. Any slippage from them at all, and Phoenix goes down 2-1.
I’ll once again play the over. The Suns’ role players will continue to give more at home, and Denver’s role players likely find the bottom of the net in this one.
Picks: Nuggets ML +122 | Over 226.5 | TJ Warren Over Points (if they post)
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