Welcome to the Sunday, May 12 edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for today’s Denver-Portland playoff matchup I feel has profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, 888 Sportsbook, and BetStars Sportsbook.
Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads, or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager we favor over the other side. This play could end up on our card with the release of additional information.
Regular-season series results:
- Nov. 30: Nuggets 113, Blazers 112 (Moda Center)
- Jan. 13: Nuggets 116, Blazers 113 (Pepsi Center)
- April 5: Nuggets 119, Blazers 110 (Pepsi Center)
- April 7: Blazers 115, Nuggets 108 (Moda Center)
Playoff series results:
- April 29: Nuggets 121, Blazers 113 (Pepsi Center)
- May 1: Blazers 97, Nuggets 90 (Pepsi Center)
- May 3: Blazers 140, Nuggets 137 (4OT) (Moda Center)
- May 5: Nuggets 116, Blazers 112 (Moda Center)
- May 7: Nuggets 124, Blazers 98 (Pepsi Center)
- May 9: Blazers 119, Nuggets 108 (Moda Center)
5/12/19 NBA Betting Pick:
Denver Nuggets (54-28 reg. season, 7-5 postseason) vs. Portland Blazers (53-29 reg. season, 7-4 postseason)
The Nuggets seemed to exert dominance in this series in a 26-point home Game 5 win, only to run out of gas down the stretch in Game 6.
Both of these teams were unbelievably dominant at home throughout the regular season. Portland posted a stellar 32-9 record with an average differential of 8.4 PPG, while Denver posted a league-best 34-7 record with a 9.5 PPG differential.
Denver went 3-1 vs. Portland in the regular season, so it comes as little surprise that the Nuggets (-240 on FanDuel Sportsbook) are prohibitive favorites on the Moneyline and are giving 5.5 points at home.
Nikola Jokic has taken charge in most of those home games with an increased usage rate (29.2%) and increased efficiency (.615% true shooting percentage). He posted a 28.9% usage rate in Denver’s two home wins this series and the Nuggets fell, 97-90, in Game 2 partially because Jokic saw just a 22.2% usage rate over 37 foul-plagued minutes.
He’s fouled out of consecutive games and will need to be smart about avoiding whistles with the Blazers big men angling to get him off the floor.
When Jokic is on the floor, the Nuggets wing players are constantly getting open looks. Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Malik Beasley have cashed in on those opportunities and Jamal Murray is creating offense of his own.
Murray is crushing it with a 135 offensive rating over his last three appearances and he’s been able to wear down Damian Lillard, who played a role in Portland yielding the most PPG (22.27) to PG this season. Murray saw a significant bump in efficiency with .587 true shooting percentage at home.
Paul Millsap has also been an issue for Portland’s undersized frontcourt combination of Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. Millsap struggled from the field (4-for-15) to basically cost Denver a win in Game 6, but he’s shooting 51.7% from the floor over three home games this series.
The biggest factor going against the Blazers is the struggles of their star-studded backcourt in Denver.
Damian Lillard averaged just 21.3 PPG and shot a rough 28.6% from downtown over four meetings with the Nuggets this season. His struggles worsened at the Pepsi Center and he was generally less efficient with a .561 true shooting percentage on the road.
C.J. McCollum shot just 7-for-19 in his lone appearance at Pepsi Center this season and is 20-for-53 (37.7%) from the floor in three road games this series.
It’s not a fluke that both guards have struggled in Denver. The Nuggets held opponents to 44.8% FG shooting and allowed a below-average 10.2 3PTM per game at home this season. They held the Blazers to 37.9% shooting from deep in Game 1, 31% shooting in Game 2 and an unsightly 27% mark (10-for-37) in a Game 5 blowout win.
Portland was able to force a Game 7 by shooting 15-for-33 (45.5%) from deep at home, but the three-ball has been far less effective for the Blazers in road games.
Rodney Hood‘s resurgence has been a huge factor for Portland, but his unreal shooting (8-for-12 from the field, 3-for-4 from 3) in Game 6 seems unsustainable. With Enes Kanter (shoulder) banged up, the Blazers seem unprepared to win a deciding game on the road.
The Final Word
The Nuggets might not be getting much more production off their bench in terms of points, but they are a far deeper team. They’re also more versatile with everything running through their game-changing center, while Portland relies on two guards to create baskets with individual brilliance.
We’re fairly confident that Denver wins and that the Nuggets (-5.5 on FanDuel Sportsbook) cover the spread.
Denver is 29-19 against the spread (ATS) at home this season and 9-7 when given at least two days off. Portland went 11-18 ATS when listed as a road underdog, which is tied with Washington for the worst percentage in the league.
The point total is a bit less predictable in a series that’s seen wild fluctuations and the outlier of a quadruple overtime tilt in Game 3.
Since 9 of 13 Nuggets playoff games and 7 of 11 Blazers playoff games have gone over the assigned total, we’d certainly feel more comfortable taking the Over (212 on DraftKings Sportsbook).
Yet if you expect the Nuggets to cover, a parlay with the Over might be unwise considering that the path to a Denver victory would be found in shutting down Portland’s scoring guards.
The Pick: Nuggets (-5.5)