A good doubleheader in the NBA on Monday features Game 1 between the Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are -4.5 on their home floor and have grown slightly as a favorite for their first appearance in the second round of the NBA Playoffs since 2010. Heck, this is their first PLAYOFF appearance since 2010.
The Nuggets are well-versed in postseason appearances, but they’ll be looking to set the tone here after a tough series against Portland. This is the fourth road dog spot for the Nuggets in the postseason and they are 2-1 straight up and ATS to this point.
The spread is 4.5 and the total is 219.5 at Bookmaker Sportsbook.
A big benchmark in the NBA is 50/40/90. That would be 50% from the floor overall, 40% from three, and 90% on free throws. Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. both had stat lines like that in the series against Portland. Jokic shot 52.8% with a 42.9% mark from three and a 91.7% free throw percentage. Porter was 53.8%, 41.5%, and 90.9% across the three categories.
The Nuggets have had more of a committee approach to replacing the lost production of Jamal Murray, but it sure looks as though Porter is going to be the go-to guy for the postseason. Denver got 198 points from Jokic and 113 from Porter in the series. The Nuggets were able to outlast the Portland Damian Lillards in the series and advance to the second round.
Overall, Denver shot 47.2% from the floor as a team and over 40% on threes. While a lot of teams struggled at the free throw line, Denver did not, coming in just shy of 81%. Five players averaged double figures in the series.
Defensively, Lillard got his with 206 points and shot 46.3% from the floor and 45% from three, but the supporting cast was hit or miss. CJ McCollum struggled, despite scoring 20.7 points per game, and guys like Norman Powell and Jusuf Nurkic didn’t get enough touches, though they were effective when they did.
Denver needs to be better defensively in this series. The Nuggets allowed Portland to post a .567 eFG% and over 119 points per game. There was an extended overtime game in the mix, but Portland scored a lot of points in the six games. The Nuggets will have to fix that.
The Phoenix Suns took care of the Los Angeles Lakers in six games, but it wasn’t as impressive as it sounds. The Lakers looked disjointed and disgruntled throughout the series. Anthony Davis was injured and LeBron James just did not look the part as a guy that could take over the game and really make his presence felt.
Maybe that Suns had more to do with that than anything else. The Lakers shot under 30% from three in the series and only 41.4% on two-point shots. Los Angeles got 140 points from James, but nobody else crossed the 90-point mark. Davis played late in the series, but clearly wasn’t the same.
Offensively, Phoenix struggled a bit as well. Devin Booker had 178 points on 48.8% from the floor and nearly 43% from three, but the others were hit or miss in terms of secondary scoring. The Suns got a big effort from Deandre Ayton, who was 43-of-54 from the floor, but didn’t give him enough touches or enough usage. It was the Devin Booker Show for the most part. It does seem like he’ll need to share the ball more in this series.
Booker had 48 of the 124 free throw attempts for the Suns as well. They shot 84% as a team from the stripe, which was a big factor early in the series as there were some games that hung in the balance a bit. Free throw shooting should be very important in this series as well.
One other thing about the Suns here is that they were beaten pretty soundly on the glass by the Lakers. Denver held a clear rebounding edge over Portland. That could be a factor in this series.
Nuggets vs. Suns Free Pick
The Nuggets and Suns make for an interesting matchup. The Nuggets do appear to have a better offensive supporting cast than the Suns, but Denver’s defense is not as strong as Phoenix’s. We’ve seen the pace of games slow down a good bit this postseason, too, so defense in the halfcourt has been a big reason why some teams have advanced and others have not.
The line has gone from 4 to 4.5 here, but the Nuggets are a very formidable foe and a team that looks to have a great shot at stealing one or both games in the desert.
Pick: Denver Nuggets +4.5