Suns vs. Nuggets Odds & Picks: Best Bets for NBA Christmas (December 25)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns.
Suns vs. Nuggets Odds
|Time||10:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
Arguably the biggest day on the NBA regular season slate is here (although I’ve always personally been an MLK Jr Day guy), and although there are a few key names missing, it still looks like a great slate.
The finale will star the 19-14 Phoenix Suns as they travel to Denver to take on the 20-11 Nuggets. It’s the number one seed in the West vs. the number four seed, but if you’ve seen the Western Conference standings lately, you know it basically looks like those old school horse racing water gun games at the county fair: teams are rising and dropping every night, and it’s pure chaos (and pure fun).
This line opened at Denver -2.5, and for a minute on Friday morning, it looked as if there might be great value on the Suns +4 once the line made its way out there. But of course, the NBA being the NBA, 24 hours and a few injury reports later, and now all that pre-Christmas logic might be out the door.
So let’s settle in, pour a cup of warm cocoa, and try to figure out the best way to bet on this game.
Shorthanded Suns Struggle to Score
The Suns head into their Christmas night capper having lost two in a row, and with their best player potentially on the shelf. In fact, Devin Booker has been out five of the last seven games, and the Suns lost four of those five without him.
The team is still without Cameron Johnson, and they haven’t found a trade partner for Jae Crowder, so they have unsurprisingly had to dust off a few players that would not be in their dream rotation.
When the team has been right this season, they have thrived in transition, sporting the fourth-most points per game off turnovers, while forcing the seventh-most turnovers per game.
As Matt Moore pointed out on the BUCKETS podcast, in the excellent Christmas Day preview, this is a spot the Suns could potentially have an edge on the Nuggets who are not great in transition and give up almost 19 points per game to their opponents off their own turnovers.
Of course, the two players who score the most points per game off turnovers for Phoenix are Booker and Johnson, so if both are unable to go (Johnson will not be playing, while Booker will make his return), that edge would have dried up a little.
The Suns are also very strong in terms of limiting what their opponents do in transition, so it’s doubtful that becomes a negative for them.
Nuggets Getting Healthy at the Right Time
While the Suns are starting to drown a bit with their injury report, the Nuggets are just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. On Friday night, they had their starting lineup of: Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all in action for the first time in a month.
It’s been even more rare for them to have their full rotation with Bones Hyland, Jeff Green, and Bruce Brown all available off the bench. And they looked good.
Denver won relatively handily over a full-strength Portland Trail Blazers team that is very solid. Murray had arguably his best game since coming back (25 points and 12 assists), and the offense was just cruising: 58.0% from the field and 47.6% from beyond the arc.
That core five starting lineup has played 190 minutes together, per NBA.com, and they have blown the doors off opponents so far this season. They have a 120.2 offensive rating, and maybe even more surprising (and impressive) is the 101.7 defensive rating the unit possesses. That’s a +18.5 net rating in those 190 minutes, and it’s a great sign for the ceiling of this team.
The Nuggets were a trendy preseason pick to come out of the West, and if they can stay healthy, that ceiling is absolutely attainable. In terms of how they match up with the Suns, they have been excellent at cleaning the glass all season, which will be key against a Suns team that ranks seventh in the league in second-chance points.
One weak spot has been their defense inside the arc, but the Suns are the 25th-ranked 2-point field goal percentage team, and as noted before, their full healthy starting five has been excellent on the defensive end this season.
It’s a frustrating sentiment, but it’s a common one when it comes to this game: So much of it was going to come down to that injury report. There are two very big pivot points, one on each side of the ball.
For the Suns, Booker is essential to their offense, and the team has not looked the same without him in the lineup. Good gamblers know All-Star level players aren’t worth more than 3-4 points to the spread, but those points are obviously a pivotal swing.
On the other side of the ball, it’s fair to wonder whether Michael Porter Jr. is hardly a paradigm of health, and although he isn’t on the injury report at the time of writing, I’m still a bit cautious.
If both play, as looks likely, I’d imagine the line would settle around Denver -3.5. If both are playing and the line is closer to Denver -5 (currently -4 at most booksl), I’d take Phoenix, and of course the inverse if it is, say, only Denver -2.