The Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets begin their second round series in the NBA bubble on Thursday night with Game 1. The Nuggets had a short layoff in between rounds, defeating the Utah Jazz in Game 7 in the first round a few nights ago. That game looked a lot like something out of a ‘90s NBA Classic episode with the Nuggets hanging on for am 80-78 win. Now, the Nuggets advance to take on the Clippers, who for the most part dominated the Dallas Mavericks in the first round in six games. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are title hunting and it doesn’t look like many believe Denver will get in their way.
Let’s take a look at the series lines for Nuggets-Clippers and if throwing some dough on Denver to pull off the upset is viable.
Nuggets (+700) vs. Clippers (-1250)
I’ll admit, looking at these odds and how both teams performed in the first round, it seems a little steep, right? I like the Clippers in the series but there’s value in the Nuggets at this number. Is it really that big a margin between the Clips and Nuggets? I don’t think so. We saw the Mavericks take two games from L.A. while dealing with injuries to Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Dorian Finney-Smith and Trey Burke.
The difference between the Mavs and Nuggets is Doncic. Denver really doesn’t have a superstar, go-to guy unless Jamal Murray can stay hot with Kawhi and PG chasing him all series. Maybe Nikola Jokic gives us a career series.
The fact the Nuggets are getting healthier and have faced adversity is appealing when considering this line. How many teams have allowed over 125 points in three straight losses in the playoffs only to come back and win a series? I doubt any have. Gary Harris is back in the lineup for Denver, which adds some depth at guard and a better defensive presence on the perimeter. The Nuggets have the big wing defenders to throw at Kawhi and PG-13 in Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig, not that either are all-world stoppers. I think the key is Michael Porter Jr.
If Porter can somehow be the third option behind Jokic and Murray like he was in the seeding round, the Nuggets become much tougher to defend. The issue is the Clippers have guys to throw at the rookie and his defensive struggles have kept him off the court. But would anyone be overly surprised if Porter got the best of the Clippers? L.A. wasn’t exactly great on defense against Dallas. The Nuggets aren’t the Mavs on offense but they also are much better defensively. So it might even out. Ultimately, I could see this series going 6-7 games, which favors Denver at this number.
Nuggets odds with series score
If you do think the Nuggets can pull it off, going with their series score odds might be more attractive. Like I said, if Denver is going to win this, it’s probably in 6 or 7 games. So Denver to win 4-2 at +3000 or win 4-3 at +1600 are both considerations. For what it’s worth, I threw some money on the Nuggets to make it out of the Western Conference before the season restart went down. That was with the idea that both Will Barton and Gary Harris would be back. Only Harris is back, but the Nuggets are still alive.
The Nuggets can take some things away from how the Mavs were successful in the first round. Outside shooting and shutting down everyone but Kawhi Leonard seemed to work well. The Mavs also didn’t turn the ball over much in the first round. So ball security will also be big. Don’t give the Clippers second-chance opportunities. The Nuggets can also take advantage of Patrick Beverley less than 100% and Montrezl Harrell not in mid-season form. The more I talk about it, the more I’m liking the Nuggets in a close series. I’ll probably regret writing all of this after Game 1 when the Clippers demolish Denver. That’s why they play seven, though!
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