NBA Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our 4 Best Playoff Bets for Nuggets vs. Blazers, Suns vs. Lakers (Thursday, June 3)
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker.
- There are a pair of crucial playoff matchups on the docket for Thursday night in the Western Conference.
- The Trail Blazers hope to bounce back after a double-overtime loss in Game 5 on Tuesday night, while the Lakers are out to keep their season alive.
- Our team of NBA betting analysts break down their best best and favorite plays for a pair of huge Game 6s.
Boy, are we in for a night of excitement on the NBA playoffs landscape.
Things tip off with the Denver Nuggets, holding a 3-2 series lead, looking to close out the Portland Trail Blazers on the road at the Moda Center. Following that intriguing matchup, we head south to the Staples Center where LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers hope to stave off elimination in their Game 6 showdown with the sizzling Phoenix Suns.
Our Action Network analysts are coming in hot on the Thursday card, delivering four best bets for the evening’s action. Take a look at their detailed thoughts and in-depth analysis, plus their favorite picks, below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers
Kenny Ducey: I’ve been one of the resident Blazers backers all series long, but I’ve just about had it with this defense. Damian Lillard has single-handedly brought Portland back from deep holes in this series twice, and twice this team has failed to pick him up. Why? Bad defense.
Jusuf Nurkić has now impossibly fouled out three times in five games after never fouling out once during the season, leaving Enes Kanter (yuck!) and Carmelo Anthony (gross!) to defend in the post down the stretch. It’s gone just about as well as you think it would.
This team has severe issues defensively, but there might be some good news. The Trail Blazers allowed 1.1 points fewer per 100 possessions at home this year, and in two home games this series have had a 113.2 defensive rating compared to 126.7 on the road.
Now, some of this is due to Denver just forgetting how to shoot in Portland, but the combination of a bit more effort at home and a drop in offensive production from the Nuggets could be what the Trail Blazers need here.
While Portland hasn’t shot quite as well at home, and has been tough to back against the spread in these spots, it’s hard to see this team completely folding on the offensive end. I think there are too many things that can go right here for Portland. C.J. McCollum can’t possibly play any worse than he did in Game 4, and Nurkić can’t possibly foul out a fourth time, right?
He’s been a revelation for this team, and when he’s been out there Portland has been the better team. I think it’s worth it to lay the points given the fact that Denver is already overachieving on offense and hasn’t been quite as good on the road this series. This also fits with my non-scientific system of backing a team off a long, back-breaking loss.
More often than not you get a great effort the next game when everything would tell you the team would be deflated and throw in the towel.
Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers
Joe Dellera: The Blazers must win tonight at home against the Nuggets in order to force a Game 7. But how do we expect them to win after just losing a game when Damian Lillard literally had a record setting performance with 55 points and a NBA Playoff record 12 3s with multiple buzzer beaters.
This series is incredibly close and although each team has also covered the spread when they won, over the course of the entire series the Blazers lead 602-599 despite being down 3-2. With offenses like these, it’s been an exciting series with massive swings even within each game.
The one thing that I trust with the Blazers over the Nuggets though is their offense. The Blazers have more talent overall, despite the Nuggets having the MVP in Nikola Jokić.
There’s no room for error tonight, and even if players get into foul trouble I expect the Blazers to push the envelope and keep their best on the floor. Jusuf Nurkić has been excellent this series, but he’s fouled out in all three Portland losses.
He’s posted a +47.1 point differential in 140 minutes, partially because of his offense (+10.1), but he’s critical when defending Jokic and the Blazers have been 37.1 points better defensively per 100 possessions with him on the court, per Cleaning the Glass. I expect the Blazers to keep Nurkić on the floor as much as possible, given these offensive and defensive splits, even if he flirts with foul trouble.
The craziest thing about this series has been that Nikola Jokic is posting a negative point differential per 100 possessions. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Nuggets are 22.8 points worse with him on the floor than with him off.
This is one of those quirks of advanced stats, we know the Nuggets are better with him playing, but if they’re losing the Jokić minutes overall, this seems ripe for a correction. I expect Damian Lillard and this Blazers offense to push this series to a Game 7.
Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers
Raheem Palmer: Conventional wisdom says the Portland Trail Blazers win this game to extend this series to a Game 7. Who wouldn’t bet on that? The Blazers were favorites coming into this series and have won two games in this series by an average of 17 points.
Given the injuries to Jamal Murray, Will Barton and PJ Dozier, the Blazers have a huge talent disparity at guard that Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Norman Powell have been able to capitalize on during this series. Despite that, the Nuggets are still up 3-2 in this series after surviving 55 points, 10 assists and six rebounds from Lillard in their 147-140 double-overtime victory Tuesday.
Speaking to how unpredictable this series has been, the Blazers won by 20 in a game in which Lillard finished 1-of-10 shooting for just 10 points and lost a game in which Lillard scored 55 points.
The biggest difference has been the performance of his supporting cast in those two games. In Portland’s Game 4, 115-95 win, Powell scored 29 points on 11-of-15 (73%) shooting while McCollum scored 21 points on 9-of-19 (47.4%) shooting.
In Game 5, neither performed well with Powell scoring just 13 on 5-of-14 (35.7%) shooting including 0-of-3 from behind the arc. McCollum scored 18 points on 7-of-22 (31.8%) shooting including 2 of 8 from behind the arc while also turning the ball over down three points late in double overtime on the potential game tying possession.
Although most people are assuming they should play better when at home, I’m not seeing how Lillard replicates his 55 point performance here. The biggest factor in this series for me is that the Blazers are heavily reliant on three point field goals, while the Nuggets are scoring in the paint.
The Blazers are second in 3-point frequency shooting and 41.8% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc, so variance looms large for this team. In a long series, how much can you trust a team’s jumpers to continue falling.
A big key in this series is whether Blazers center Jusuf Nurkić can stay out of foul trouble because they simply have no answers for the league’s Most Valuable Player in Nikola Jokić, who is averaging 32.4 points, 11 rebounds and 4.2 assists in this series.
The Blazers are guarding him in a manner to keep his assists down, but he finished with nine assists in Tuesday’s win along with 38 points so it’s clear that if Michael Porter, Jr. and Austin Rivers are hitting shots, this Blazers team can’t defend the Nuggets. The Blazers not only struggle to defend the rim but they struggle guarding the perimeter as opposing teams are eighth in opponent three point percentage, making 38.3% of their attempts.
It speaks volumes that despite the absence of Murray and Barton, this Nuggets team is still scoring 121.9 points per 100 possessions in this series. In addition, this Blazers team aren’t a great rebounding team and they’re facing on one of the best offensive rebound teams in the Nuggets, who are third in Offensive Rebound Rate (30.6%) while also having a huge advantage in points per play on put-backs and second chance points.
The Nuggets are second behind the Bucks among playoff teams in second-chance points, per NBA.com, at 17.6 per game while the Blazers are 15th among playoff teams in opponent second-chance points.
Overall, I think this line is too high. My model makes the Blazers 2-point favorites so I think there’s a big edge on the Nuggets. Although many will be reluctant to take them given that many thought this series was going seven games, but I’m just not buying it.
Portland is a treadmill team, which has caught lucky breaks year after year. Chris Paul’s injury in the first round of the 2016 playoffs, facing an Oklahoma City Thunder team that refused to trap Lillard in 2019, a young Nuggets team who they defeated in seven games in 2019 or facing a Warriors team without Kevin Durant in 2019 and still getting swept.
In many ways, they’ve over performed based on circumstances and probably should have lost in the first round of the playoffs six seasons. Lillard has been fiercely loyal to this franchise but is it warranted?
If he can’t muster up another performance similar to Tuesday, we might have to wonder if the sand in the hour glass is ticking not just on the Blazers’ season, but on Lillard time in Portland.
Suns vs. Lakers
Brandon Anderson: Are the Suns really going to get the job done against the Lakers? Is this really how Los Angeles’ title defense ends, not with a roar, but a whimper? Is this how LeBron James will go out, with that defeated look on his face while Anthony Davis watches in street clothes and the rest of the Lakers just don’t have it in them?
It all seems crazy but it could be reality in a few hours. Twice in the last 10 days, these Suns have straight-up dominated the Lakers. Davis didn’t play in Game 5, but he did play Game 1 and Chris Paul missed time in both of those games injured. The Suns just look like the better team right now. They’re younger, healthier and hungrier. They shoot better and defending hard.
I’m not convinced the Lakers have a ton of fight left in them. If Los Angeles can fight through and win two elimination games, the road gets much easier, but it’s going to be really hard to win back-to-back elimination games against a team as solid and all-around good as Phoenix. And if the Suns do win, boy is this path starting to look pretty juicy.
Phoenix lucks into a great draw in round two, either the Jamal Murray-less Nuggets or the defense-less Blazers, and there’s a scenario where the Suns win tonight and then sit and watch while Denver and Portland play an exhausting Game 7.
On the other half of the bracket, the Clippers are also one game away from elimination. The Mavericks are a much better opponent for the Suns to face, and even the No. 1-seeded Jazz are workable. Don’t forget that Phoenix went 3-0 against Utah in the regular season.
Phoenix’s path has set up really nicely. Win one of the next two against the shell of the Lakers, then play with home court and a potential rest advantage against the softest remaining West opponent and probably bring a rest advantage into the Western Conference Finals.
There you need only one more series to hit this ticket at +500 odds. Our NBA Playoff Guide gives this a 4.3% edge in our favor, with Justin Phan’s implied probability around 21% and +500 implying under 17% chance of hitting.
I’m not willing to go all in on the +1300 title ticket just yet. I’d mark the Suns clear underdogs against either the Brooklyn Nets or the Milwaukee Bucks in a potential NBA Finals matchup, and that’s a lot more games to trust Paul’s shoulder to hold up. There’s also the chance the Suns lose and I could’ve gotten a better number.
However, I think there’s almost as good a chance Phoenix wins and that Portland wins as well to send that series to seven, And now, I lose significant value in this scenario.
Now is the time. I’m rolling with Paul and the Suns. The path is open now. They just need to take it.