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Nuggets vs. Mavericks Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions: Will Denver’s Defense Contain Luka Doncic?

Credit:

Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Luka Doncic (77) of the Dallas Mavericks, Nikola Jokic (15) of the Denver Nuggets.

Nuggets at Mavericks Picks, Betting Odds & Predictions

  • Spread: Mavericks -3
  • Over/Under: 220.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ESPN

Odds as of Wednesday afternoon and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.


National TV games in the NBA have been like Russian roulette this season, but tonight’s matchup is among the best we’ve had all season for Wednesday. European stars Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic will face off at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

So far, Jokic has the head-to-head advantage in their three games played against each other. Will Luka even the score at home tonight? Our NBA experts preview how their betting this game below.

Betting Trend to Know

The Dallas Mavericks lead the league Offensive Rating (115.5) and are the most profitable team to the over this season (23-13).

If you dig a bit closer though, the Mavs haven’t been as much of a lock to hit the over as they seem recently. Since the beginning of December, when the total closes at 220 or higher — it’s currently 220.5 — the Mavericks are 3-5 to the over. A $100 bettor would have lost $211 during that span. — Malik Smith

Bryan Mears: Poor Defense Makes This Total Intriguing

Man have the Nuggets been awful defensively of late. In their last five games, they have allowed 126.2 points per 100 possessions. I’m not even sure I can put that into proper context; they would be nearly just as bad if they just never crossed halfcourt to set up defense.

What gives exactly?

Cleaning the Glass has a metric this season that predicts what eFG% a team should be giving up based on shot location. In the last five games, the Nuggets have the third-lowest mark. Yes, not a typo. Per this metric, opponents should be at a 51.6% eFG% but are actually at 59.4%. That’s quite the difference.

That suggests the Nuggets have been getting quite unlucky, but I’m not sure it’s that simple. Some of it is definitely bad luck: Over the last five games, opponents are hitting 48.3% of their open 3-pointers against the Nuggets — easily the highest mark in the league.

But on “wide-open” shots — both open and wide-open shots account for about 25% of the shots taken against Denver — the Nuggets haven’t really been unlucky. Further, opponents are shooting 73.9% at the rim in this recent stretch. The Nugs haven’t been forcing turnovers, have struggled to grab defensive rebounds and have fouled opponents at a high rate. They are bottom-eight in literally every defensive four factor.

You can count the outside shooting as unlucky, but I’m not sure the rest of their extensive troubles are, especially the rim protection. That said, I’ve been looking at their defense on film, and there doesn’t seem to be schematic things inherently wrong. Sure, the rotations have been slow at times, but I think this is probably just a downswing on an extended road trip. It’ll get better.

But the question is when it will get better and how to bet tonight’s game.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some regression tonight, although the Mavs are well set up to give them trouble, as Matt mentioned above. I do think the Nuggets will continue their offensive success; they’ve been super impressive on that end lately, scoring 119.1 points/100 over the last two weeks.

Dallas has been similar as well: good on offense but slipping defensively. I think there’s likely still a bit of value on the over and would lean that way.

The Lean: Over 220.5Bryan Mears

Matt Moore: Nuggets Always Struggle With Mavericks

This matchup always gives the Nuggets fits. What’s interesting is that it was a problem even before Luka Doncic showed up, when the Nuggets used to play drop scheme in pick-and-roll.

In that system, you give up shots off the pick-and-roll to contain the rim and try and stay home on shooters, but Dallas’ quick guards would come off and light them up.

Last season, Denver went to a blitz/hedge scheme, putting both the big and the guard on the ball-handler to pressure him, and the Nuggets went 3-1 against the spread against a Mavs team short on weapons.

The Mavericks came in and just trucked the Nuggets earlier this season when Denver’s offense was in a funk, specifically Nikola Jokic. However, now that the offense is back, the defense has slipped; Denver ranks 27th in defensive rating over its past 15 games. That’s almost half the season.

Plus, Denver has been slipping considerably in its pick-and-roll coverage, with the bigs not leaping out to contain. Even if they do blitz effectively vs. Doncic, he’s a big and talented enough passer to beat the defense, and then the Mavericks’ cadre of shooters can light it up. The Nuggets are 25th defensively per possession against the pick-and-roll when including passes, via Synergy Sports.

Kristaps Porzingis’ absence (he’s out with a sore knee) doesn’t really affect this, because the key for the Mavericks offensively is on the perimeter, and Porzingis has historically struggled with Jokic.

This looks like an all-offense game — the total has risen by 2.5 points from open — and Dallas, with the best offense in the NBA, is better positioned to take advantage of it. Since taking over the Nuggets, Michael Malone is 6-10 ATS vs. Rick Carlisle.

The Pick: Mavericks -3Matt Moore


Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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