Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers Odds, Pick, Preview: If Nikola Jokic Plays, Find Value on Denver (November 23)
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic high-fives Monte Morris and Aaron Gordon.
- The Trail Blazers are favored in Tuesday night's Western Conference matchup against the Nuggets.
- Both teams have identical records, and superstar Nikola Jokic's availability for this game is a big question mark.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of the matchup, including a betting prediction.
Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers Odds
|Trail Blazers Odds||-5.5|
|Over/Under||208 (-110 / -110)|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
A division rivalry between two teams that have met in the playoffs two of the last three years. A matchup of two perennial MVP candidates (maybe), and two teams trying to find their way through early adversity.
Can Portland keep it rolling? Or will Denver right the ship?
Editor’s note: Nikola Jokic has been ruled out of Tuesday night’s game.
Status Of Jokic Key For Nuggets
The Nuggets are reeling. There’s news that Michael Porter Jr. may need surgery and his season could be in jeopardy. Jamal Murray is out. Bones Hyland is hobbled. Even usually invincible Nikola Jokic is banged up.
Jokic suffered a sprained wrist in the home loss to Philadelphia earlier this week and missed the last two games, which put Denver’s losing streak to four. X-rays were negative for Jokic and Michael Malone didn’t sound overly concerned about Jokic’s status.
That said, the wrist did swell after the injury which kept him out, and the Nuggets don’t play after Tuesday until Friday, giving him a full three days off to rest if they don’t bring him back.
Definitely wait to see Jokic’s status, as his availability should determine how you bet this matchup. Jokic slows the game down, which allows the Nuggets to wear out opponents on defense. Without him, it’s too much simplistic action that’s easy to defend, giving them more energy offensively.
The over cruised in the two losses without Jokic. Jokic isn’t thought of as a defensive player, but he has been this year. I could recite you all the defensive advanced metrics in his corner, but really just go watch some of the games from this year and you’ll see what Jokic has brought defensively.
The Nuggets use a scheme with Jokic that’s different from how they defend the pick-and-roll in all other circumstances. With Jokic, they tend to put a lot of pressure on the ball-handler at the level. This scheme has consistently caused Damian Lillard trouble. It gets the ball out of his hands and forces him to make passes against pressure, for which he’s a bit small.
One notable shift on this in the Blazers’ favor: they added Larry Nance Jr., who can operate as a smallball five on the short roll and is considerably more mobile and better at kicking to shooters than Jusuf Nurkic.
Denver’s bench is an absolute mess. The starters have the second-best net rating in the league, per NBA.com, but their bench has been the worst. So if Denver gets out to a considerable lead off the blocks, be prepared to bet Portland to cover the first-quarter spread if you live bet. Portland should surge with their second units the minute Jokic sits.
Hyland was the only thing keeping those bench minutes afloat for Denver, and he’s unlikely to play with an ankle injury.
Offensively, the Nuggets have struggled to shoot this year, but they’re creating quality looks. Don’t bank outright on the Nuggets being unable to score, even shorthanded, as long as Jokic plays. However, because they play so small, they’ve gone 11-5 to the under on their team total on the season.
The Nuggets have been great vs. division teams under Malone, better on the road, and even better as a dog. They are 21-15-1 ATS under Malone as a dog vs. a division opponent. They are 4-4 ATS in that time as a dog vs. Portland, but two of those games were tanked for strategic playoff seeding purposes.
Again, make sure Jokic is playing, or not, before betting this game.
Lillard, Blazers Have Gotten On Track
The Blazers, meanwhile, faced an early season moment where things could go off the rails. They were absolutely destroyed in Denver eight days ago. Their effort was atrocious, even without Lillard, and they looked lost.
So, in typical Dame Blazers fashion, they rallied. Dame came back from injury, started lighting it up, and Portland has rattled off three straight.
Portland is 9-8 on the season, just like Denver. The Nuggets rank 16th in adjusted net rating at DunksAndThrees.com, the Blazers are 17th.
A good sign of Portland’s inconsistency is that the Blazers’ player with the worst on-court defensive rating is Nurkic, while they have the best on-court net rating with him because of the offense.
Lillard struggled early this season to score like a lot of top-end stars did, but he’s predictably gotten on the right track. And as he has, the Blazers are kind of back to who they’ve been: a team that can’t get stops at all but has a lot of firepower to get them through the regular season.
Even in the three wins since Dame returned, they have the 26th-ranked defensive rating in the league.
Portland can put up points in bunches. Can they get stops? This is a matchup of the immovable object in the Nuggets’ defense vs. the unstoppable force in the Blazers’ offense, and a case of the extremely movable object in the Blazers defense vs. the very-stoppable force in the Nuggets offense.
Nuggets-Trail Blazers Pick
I have this projected with the Nuggets favored by 3.5, even on the road based on halfcourt and transition data, before accounting for Jokic’s potential absence.
If Jokic doesn’t play, this is an easy play on Portland. You can expect the line to move significantly if he doesn’t play, so if that’s your angle, be ready to go when Malone speaks at 8:30 p.m. ET. Jokic’s availability will be the first question posed to him. If he says it’s a game-time decision, you’ll have to wait until 9:30-9:40 p.m. ET.
If Jokic does play, I think there’s value on Denver even against a short line and even short-handed with Hyland and Zeke Nnaji out. Jokic has truly meant that much to their performance.
A key element is that I have this projected over based on full-season numbers at roughly 212 vs. the 208 line. If Jokic doesn’t play, the game will be faster and Portland will put up an even bigger number. If Jokic does play, Denver should be able to hang vs. a weak defense.
Pick: Over 208. If Jokic plays, Nuggets +3.5 to Nuggets +1. If Jokic doesn’t play, Blazers ML -215.
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