NBA Odds and Picks: Predictions for Nuggets vs. Jazz Game 6 (Sunday, Aug. 30)
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jamal Murray.
Nuggets vs. Jazz Odds
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|Nuggets Odds||+2.5 [BET NOW]|
|Jazz Odds||-2.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+120/-143 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||218.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||8:30 p.m. ET|
It seemed as if the Nuggets were finished. Down by double digits late in the third quarter, Denver’s porous defense had met its end. But then, a flurry of Jamal Murray baskets and some (finally) engaged defensive sets brought the Nuggets back.
Murray finished the game with 42 points in the victory. Now, Denver must win again on Sunday to force a deciding Game 7. Catching two points with a total set at 221, can Murray conjure up another gem to extend the season?
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Murray put on a second straight fantastic performance in Game 5 — especially down the stretch. He went 10-of-14 from the field for 22 points with four rebounds and five assists in the final 15 minutes. Murray stepped up when his team was on the ropes, both as a scorer and as a facilitator.
Throughout the series, the Nuggets have struggled to draw foul shot opportunities. Meanwhile, Utah has largely imposed its will, getting to the charity stripe early and often. But in Game 5, that narrative shifted. Denver finally was able to get to the foul line and create some easy points, shooting 15-of-16 on its free throw opportunities. The Nuggets fought back and got physical — something we have been waiting to see all series.
One of head coach Mike Malone’s major adjustments in the second half was inserting P.J. Dozier into the lineup. Dozier was a menace on the defensive end of the floor and provided a shot of energy that the Nuggets needed. It won’t show up in the box score — he had three points, four boards and three assists in 19 minutes — but Dozier generated a +21 Plus/Minus. Furthermore, the Nuggets had a defensive rating of 89 points per 100 possessions with Dozier on the floor.
On top of that, Denver was much more aggressive bringing Jokic up to meet the screen, which proved to be very effective in Game 5. However, I’m skeptical about the viability of that strategy moving forward in the series. Now that Denver has shown its hand with Jokic, Donovan Mitchell can anticipate it and still blow right by him — which he did a handful of times in Game 5. Jokic is a drop big, because he is too slow to step out beyond the 3-point line and stymie quick guards.
A pinch of Jokic up high can work schematically, but I think off-ball pressure from Dozier is more significant to Denver’s success. By putting pressure on Utah’s complimentary threats to beat them, plus an engaged defense running the Jazz off the 3-point line, Denver will be in better shape.
Utah’s game plan was in line with its philosophy over the first four games that enabled the Jazz to jump out to a 3-1 lead: Hoist 3s and let Donovan Mitchell cook.
The Jazz shot 16-of-34 from beyond the arc and did a great job of stopping Denver’s initial offensive action. Nonetheless, Utah’s sloppy ball-handling inevitably burned them. In its three victories, the Jazz averaged fewer 9 turnovers per game; in Game 5, Utah coughed up the ball 15 times.
I’ll discuss Denver’s defense in a bit, but Utah seemed to really feel the pressure when the Nuggets made their run towards the end of the game. In the final 15 minutes of action, the Jazz shot 1-of-6 from beyond the arc and committed six of their 15 turnovers.
Mitchell played very well throughout, but Denver started hedging the pick-and-roll harder, stopping Mitchell from getting a head of steam. He was still able to find his teammates at the perimeter, but they left the team hanging. Royce O’Neale committed three turnovers by himself over the final 15 minutes on Tuesday.
On top of that, an engaged Denver defense limited Utah’s shot attempts, running them off the arc and forcing them inside. As I stated earlier, Utah made only one 3 in the final minutes — but also only attempted six. Denver finally started to show some resistance to Utah’s 3-point barrage.
Now, it’s on Quinn Snyder and the Jazz to answer Denver’s challenge. Utah finally cooled off from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter, but the Jazz still put on a clinic in the context of the whole game. I still think there is some sort of regression coming for Utah’s shooters, and maybe the fourth quarter was a bit of a preview of that.
The market lists Utah as a two-point favorite for Game 6. Teams coming off of a loss heading into Game 6 are 38-42-1 against the spread (ATS), which translates to a -7.3% return on investment (ROI).
While Utah may be the correct side, I can’t shake my Denver itch. The Nuggets are still short-handed but showed what a strong defensive effort can accomplish. With that in mind, I am going to look to the under in this one.
Utah and Denver are playing at the slowest pace of all postseason matchups, averaging just over 93 possessions per 48 minutes. For reference, the slowest team this season was the Charlotte Hornets, which averaged 96 possessions per 48 minutes. The reason why these games have sailed over is due to the insane shooting splits each side has been putting up.
These two teams rank first and third in 3-point percentage during the postseason, and they also rank among the top-half of playoff teams in 3-point rate. The Jazz and the Nuggets are unloading from deep, and so far they’ve been drilling everything.
Now that Denver has stopped the bleeding, I think that we will see more of a buttoned-up game on Sunday. Denver has seen what it can do when it shows up on defense. I think we see that again in Game 6.
The Pick: Under 221 (Play down to 219.5)