Nuggets vs. Clippers Game 1 Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions (Thursday, Sept. 3)
Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic (15) and Kawhi Leonard (2).
Nuggets vs. Clippers Game 1 Odds
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|Nuggets Odds||+9.5 [BET NOW]|
|Clippers Odds||-9.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+390/-500 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||223 [BET NOW]|
|Time||9:00 p.m. ET|
“We play Thursday? We don’t get two days off?? Man… Well that’s a bummer.”
Those were Jamal Murray’s words Tuesday night to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt after a grueling Game 7 conclusion to an epic first-round series. The Nuggets survived the final battle and won the war when Mike Conley’s shot rimmed out: an ugly 80-78 final to cap a series full of fireworks.
Most of the Denver fireworks came from Jamal Murray, who played through a thigh contusion in the second half of Game 7. His battle with Donovan Mitchell will be the lasting memory of this postseason’s first round of games. But — though it feels long ago now — the Clippers fought an epic battle of their own against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks before Los Angeles finally pulled away in two games sandwiched around the players’ strike.
The Clippers were not exactly convincing in Round 1, and the Nuggets looked done after falling to a 3-1 deficit against Utah. But both survived, and now an exhausted Denver squad will face a rested Clippers team that’s played only once in the last nine days. Does Denver have anything left in the tank?
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The good news for Denver is that Gary Harris is finally healthy. Harris played 21 minutes in Game 6 and 27 minutes in Game 7, so he should be ready to start against LA. Harris has great offensive synergy with Nikola Jokic, and he’s Denver’s best two-way player, so his full return is a real boost for the Nuggets. Still no word on when or if Will Barton will be available; he hasn’t played since March.
Expect to see a lot of Torrey Craig and Jerami Grant this series. They’re the two guys who will be tasked with defending Kawhi Leonard, with a side of Paul George too. Michael Porter Jr. was a breakout star for the Nuggets in the reseeding games, but he was exposed on defense against Utah and will likely be relegated to a bench scoring role against LA. There may not be many minutes for Paul Millsap either if he can’t keep up with all those Clippers wings.
The big problem for Denver is its lack of two-way options. Who is going to score besides Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic? The Nuggets didn’t have an answer to that question in Game 7, and it nearly cost them the series. And who will cover for Murray and Jokic on defense? There may not be an answer on that end either. Let’s just say the Nuggets have their work cut out for them.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers remain title favorites. They’re pretty well rested and healthy now, and they certainly have the easiest matchup of the presumed “big three.” LA struggled early on against Dallas but seemed to figure out the Mavs over the final couple games. The series began to turn around the same time that Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Paul George finally started looking comfortable.
It looks like Patrick Beverley will finally return now, too. He played only 20 minutes in the first round series with Dallas due to a strained calf injury, but he’s listed as probable for Game 1 against Denver. Beverley’s presence is a major buoy to LA’s series prospects, because he can pester Jamal Murray. Without Beverley in the Mavericks series, the Clippers’ remaining guards were torched defensively by Dallas.
The Clippers won the season series against Denver 2-1, but there’s not much to learn from those regular season matchups. LA dominated the one full-strength matchup in February, and the Clippers starting five was especially huge. Ivica Zubac will be tested this series by Nikola Jokic, but he’s a sufficiently stout defender to hold his own.
Kawhi Leonard has been the most dominant player in the playoffs thus far, and the Clippers offense is scoring any time they want. They averaged 126.7 PPG against Dallas, and Denver isn’t much better defensively. The Nuggets will probably have to win a track meet to have any chance.
Betting Analysis & Pick
If you can’t tell, I’m having an awfully difficult time talking myself into believing the Nuggets have a chance to steal a game or two — let alone to win the series. The oddsmakers agree, listing LA’s series futures at -1400 with Denver at +850. If you’ve got some sort of Denver angle here, get your chips in now.
There’s no real point betting the Clippers to win the series at that number and given some of their key players’ injury histories. If you love LA, you can bet the Clippers to win both Game 1 and the series at 2/7. That’s four times the series value. A Clippers sweep is listed at +175, which is absurd odds and not worth the price. They’re at +200 to win the gentleman’s sweep in five. I don’t hate that price.
Game 1 opened at Clippers -5.5 and a 226 total before those lines quickly moved in favor of LA and the under. That’s the obvious play here and about where I’m at too. The Clippers are better, more rested and have a favorable matchup. Meanwhile, the Nuggets must be exhausted after eking out three must-win games. I’m a bit worried about Jamal Murray’s health, too. The problem is that the early line movement took most of the value away here.
The Clippers haven’t been as impressive defensively during the playoffs, so the Nuggets should be able to score if they’re not physically and emotionally drained from the first round. Bet365 is offering a Clippers moneyline plus both teams to score 100 points at -120, and I don’t hate that. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Nuggets just too exhausted to get to 100 either. If Denver falls behind early in this one, they may call off the dogs, get a little rest and try another day.
The best angle I can come up with for Game 1 is the Clippers team over 115.5 points. They scored 111 or more in all six games against Dallas, and there’s little reason to think Denver can slow them down. I’d play that one up to 116.5.
THE PICK: Clippers team total over 115.5 points.