The NBA Playoffs keep chugging along on Friday night with the same two matchups that we saw on Wednesday. We’ll see if things go any differently with a change of venue, as the Atlanta Hawks now host the Philadelphia 76ers and the Denver Nuggets welcome the Phoenix Suns to the Mile High City.
Based on what we saw in the first two games between the Suns and Nuggets, it seems like the fate of the series is pretty much decided. Phoenix has played two excellent games and holds the keys to the series with a 2-0 lead. Denver is a small 1.5-point favorite with home court flipped for Game 3. The total is 223 based on the odds from BetOnline Sportsbook.
All you’ve had to do in the NBA Playoffs is pick the winner of the game and you’ve had a winner on the spread. Entering play on Thursday, 47 of the 50 outright winners have also covered the spread. We have seen very little ATS drama in the postseason to this point. With a line this low, it seems unlikely that we will here as well.
Money did hit the board on Denver for Game 2, but that appeared to be dead from the jump, as Phoenix rolled to a 123-98 victory. Phoenix went from -6 to as low as -5 before the line closed 5.5 across most of the market. The total wound up at 225 and went under, as the Nuggets failed to crack 100 points.
What we’re seeing from Phoenix in these playoffs and in the first two games of this series has been really special. This is a legit team. The balanced scoring attack has been the key to everything for Phoenix. Nobody has 40 points yet through two games in this series, but five players have at least 25 points and four players have at least 35 points. Seeing Devin Booker with 39 points in two games would make us all think the worst, but that has not been the case.
Phoenix has 57 assists against just 17 turnovers. The Suns have unselfishly shared the basketball and have put themselves in a great position to win as a result. The Suns are shooting 51% from the floor and over 43% from three. They’re also shooting nearly 87% at the free throw line.
Chris Paul has a 26/1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Clearly the Suns have figured out how to be efficient on offense and now it is up to the Nuggets to adjust.
What adjustments can the Nuggets really make? Nikola Jokic has played well enough with 46 points over two games, but nobody else has scored more than 26. Michael Porter Jr. has only shot 9-of-26 from the floor in this series and less than 30% from three-point range. Aaron Gordon has shot the ball well, but hasn’t gotten a whole lot of touches.
The Nuggets just aren’t getting enough contributions from enough guys. We saw Paul Millsap work more into the equation in Game 2, but that really isn’t a good sign either. Denver has shot 43.4% from the floor and under 34% from three. The Nuggets have also missed nine of 26 free throw attempts. They have not made life easy on themselves offensively, but the Suns defense has a lot to do with that.
Perhaps coming home to the altitude will help, but the Nuggets are going to need more help than that. Jokic only has nine assists in the series. Phoenix has not only forced him into tough shots, but has clogged up the passing lanes and he hasn’t been able to get teammates open for clean looks. He had 27 assists in six games against Portland, but also shot almost 53% from the field and 43% from three.
The absence of Monte Morris has not helped for Denver. He had 92 points off the bench in the six games against Portland. That ranked third on the team and ahead of three of the starters. Without him, secondary scoring has been a problem and it looks as though it will continue to be unless adjustments are made.
Suns vs. Nuggets Free Pick
Betting on basketball is not easy. Betting on any sport is not easy. However, does anybody see any reason for the Nuggets to be favored in this game? Based on how the first two games have gone, the Suns look like a well-oiled machine and the Nuggets look like a team running on fumes. Go ahead and take the Suns money line, as the 1.5 points shouldn’t matter if what we’ve seen in the playoffs is any indication with outright winners also covering with such frequency.
Pick: Phoenix Suns