Pelicans vs. Nuggets Betting Guide: Picks, Odds & Predictions for Christmas’s Late Game

Pelicans vs. Nuggets Betting Guide: Picks, Odds & Predictions for Christmas’s Late Game article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11), Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15).

  • The Christmas NBA slate caps off with a matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and Denver Nuggets (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
  • The odds are in Denver's favor, as the Nuggets are currently 8.5-point favorites an hour before tipoff.

New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Picks, Betting Odds & Predictions

  • Spread: Nuggets -8.5
  • Over/Under: 217
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ESPN

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

Putting the potential future of the NBA up against a new contender in the Western Conference to close out Christmas Night seemed like a pretty good idea at the time.

Of course, schedulers had no way of know we’d still be waiting to see Zion Williamson’s first career regular season point as we put a cap on 2019 …

In any case, we’re left with a close to double-digit spread to end the holiday, and while it may not be the most exciting of the five Christmas matchups, it’s still certainly going to attract its fair share of bettors.

Here’s how our experts are tackling the final game of the night:

Betting Trends to Know

Most gamblers prefer wagering on the over and cheering for points. Since Christmas Day games are some of the most bet in the regular season, it is fair to assume that oddsmakers would inflate the total anticipating increased action on the over from the public.

This creates value betting the under.

A $100 bettor following this strategy has returned a profit of $1,449 since 2005. — John Ewing

Matt Moore: Okafor vs. Jokic Matchup Creates Value

Denver’s rolling going into this game, having won seven straight. Its offense has finally caught up to its top-five defense, and is fourth-best league-wide in the last ten games. Much of that is thanks to Nikola Jokic no longer acting like he’s listening to a lot of Taking Back Sunday and Denver getting the Jamal Murray-Jokic pick-and-roll going. But that’s on top of stellar seasons from Will Barton and Paul Millsap.

This seems like a cakewalk, but I think there’s some value on the Pels here. For starters, Jahlil Okafor is 2-2 lifetime vs. Nikola Jokic, and all four matchups have come with Okafor on the Pelicans. Okafor’s a big, strong ox of a center who has the touch to hit short hooks over Jokic’s limited contest height, and who can keep Jokic from getting under the rim. Jokic hasn’t put up over 20 points yet vs. Okafor.

The Pelicans’ big weakness defensively is perimeter containment, but outside of Will Barton, Denver doesn’t have any really dynamic on-ball slashers. Gary Harris is getting better with every passing game, but struggles against big interior presences like Okafor and Jaxson Hayes, even if they aren’t the best at multiple smart rotations.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jahlil Okafor

That said, Barton could have an absolutely massive game on account of this. He’s averaging 14-7-3 on 46-40-75 splits with the 5th-best Defensive Real Plus-Minus league-wide and the second-best net rating on-court of the Nuggets. Brandon Ingram should be able to match him in terms of length, but Ingram is 36th percentile league-wide in defending spot-ups. Barton will likely be able to get to the basket on those closeouts and finish over Okafor and Hayes.

Just to be clear, the fact that Zion Williamson is out for this game sucks so hard.

Denver should be able to outpace the Pelicans given its renewed firepower. And while the Nuggets tend to struggle to get up for big games, this is a national-TV game on Christmas. It’s been eons since Denver has played on Christmas, and this team tends find itself when it’s in the spotlight.

The Nuggets are vs. 8-6 ATS at home vs. teams under a 40 percent win percentage this season and last (since they made “the leap” to West contender). They’re also 10-6 ATS at home vs. teams with a 110 defensive rating or more — the Pelicans have a bottom-10 defense.

In related news, the under is 10-6 in Nuggets home games this season, thanks to their stingy defense and an offense that struggled until December. However, this also means the total is going to come in sub-220. The Pelicans are bottom-five in points allowed off turnovers, and the over for such teams on the road has gone 40-35-1 this season. You can’t give the typically slow-paced Nuggets (30th in pace) run-out opportunities. Denver may hold the Pelicans to sub-100 but still put up 120-plus. The range of outcomes definitely leans over.

LEANS: Pelicans +9.5, Over 219.5

The Top Pelicans-Nuggets Prop Bet

THE PICK: Over 3.5 Assists (+100)

Pelicans-Nuggets is a rare NBA game without a prop bet rated 9 or 10, but this one is at an 8 and looks pretty good with the juice.

What a breakout campaign for Ingram! Ingram is averaging 25.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists a game with career-highs in usage, rebounding rate and assist rate.

Ingram has played 27 games, and he’s had five or six assists in more than  half of them (14). He’s gone over this line in 66.7% of his games. This is a case in which we must not confuse median with mean. Ingram also has six games with zero or one assist, and those are killing his average (mean), but his median outcome for the season is five assists.

If Ingram does hit this line again, there’s a good chance he’ll fly past it like he often has this season. And don’t put it past Ingram to have a little extra motivation to shine in the game immediately following the Lakers on national TV either, after they traded him away this summer.

Play Ingram up to -135 and have yourself a merry little Christmas!

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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