Denver has gone from the pre-series favorite to an underdog as the oddsmakers are concerned with their recent struggles. Can they rebound or will the veteran Spurs land what could be a knockout punch?
The Denver Nuggets stumbled out of the gate in Game 1 of their Western Conference first round series with a 101-96 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Now their backs are against the wall as they look to avoid letting this series get away from them.
NBA Playoffs Point Spread and Betting Analysis
San Antonio struggled mightily on the road this season with a 16-25 record that was the worst among the eight Western Conference playoff teams. That record as the visiting team made their opening win in Denver that much more surprising. However, the Spurs are 5-1-1 against the spread in their last seven games against teams with winning records and are 18-7-1 ATS in its last 26 games versus teams with a winning percentage above .600.
The Nuggets are just 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games following an ATS loss. Even more concerning is the fact that Denver is 0-8 against the spread in its last eight conference quarterfinals games. The Nuggets had the best home record in the NBA this season with a 34-7 mark but they’ve struggled as the host in this series. San Antonio has won 32 of their last 46 visits to the Pepsi Center.
San Antonio Spurs
One of the biggest reasons why the Toronto Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio was that he struggled in the postseason. So when DeRozan went off for 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in a 101-96 win over Denver in Game 1 of their first round series, it turned a number of heads. LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in with 15 points, eight rebounds and some outstanding defence against the big men from Denver. It seemed to be the perfect formula for success and something that the Spurs will try to carry over into Game 2.
The issue the Nuggets will need to address heading into Game 2 is pace. Denver allowed the Spurs to slow down the pace of the series opener and they really never looked comfortable in the game. The challenge is if they can do it, though, as this team has been terrible at the offensive end for weeks now. The Nuggets finished the season 5-6 as their had the second-worst offence in the NBA in that span, scoring just 102.0 points per game.
For Game 2, Jamal Murray will need to be better after shooting just 8-of-24 from the field with 17 points in Game 1. Will Barton and Gary Harris combined to go 13-of-27 from the field, which isn’t bad but they need to be more efficient. As a team, they made just six-of-28 from three while allowing the Spurs to go seven-of-15, so they really got worked at the three-point line.
It will be interesting to see if the Nuggets make a point of trying to get their big men more looks with Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap combining for just 22 points on 18 shot attempts. That duo could open up cleaner looks from beyond the arc. Aldridge did a good job of slowing them down in the series opener but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they got more touches on Tuesday night.
The Nuggets have been fading for weeks but this is do-or-die time for them. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Spurs won the series but look for Denver to earn the win on Tuesday night.