The Los Angeles Clippers lead the Denver Nuggets by 1.5 games for second in the Western Conference entering Wednesday's bubble showdown.
With a win, L.A. would clinch the No. 2 seed, but Denver can keep its hopes alive by claiming victory — and perhaps spark some momentum before the postseason tips off.
Below is the remainder of abe Insights' betting preview, with wagers analysis, advanced stats, the best odds available for this contest and more relevant information that will help make you a more informed bettor.
Date: Wednesday, August 12
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Clippers 64%; Nuggets 37%
Spread: LAC -5
Moneyline: LAC -180; DEN +170
Due to the load management strategy for superstar Kawhi Leonard throughout the season, the Clippers are no strangers to playing shorthanded. They'll be without big man Montrezl Harrell, and guards Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet for this one, per ESPN.
The Nuggets have taken their lumps when it comes to injuries, yet they recently welcomed the return of starting point guard Jamal Murray. Other perimeter players such as Will Barton and Gary Harris still haven't returned, and will remain out for Wednesday's game.
110.0 vs. 107.1: These initial figures show the edge L.A. (ranked fifth in the NBA) has when it comes to defensive rating, as Denver places just 16th in this category. That end of the floor is where the absences of Barton and Harris as stout wing stoppers will particularly hurt the Nuggets.
45.0 vs. 39.2: To dive even deeper to the defensive end, only Portland is worse than Denver in terms of opponents' 3-point field goal percentage over the last six games. The Clippers aren't much better, though, ranking 23rd in the Association.
102.22 vs. 97.62: This final dual-number set shows the PACE rating for both squads. The Nuggets play at the league's second-slowest tempo, whereas the more upbeat Clips rate eighth-highest in this statistic.
Although coach Doc Rivers' Clippers like to run, they have the grit and defensive determination to grind out longer possessions and beat Denver at its own game. The usual depth these teams have at their disposal, though, will be tested on Wednesday.
Provided there's no last-minute plan on LA's end to limit minutes for Kawhi or Paul George, this should be an all-out slugfest for playoff seeding superiority. The likes of Leonard and George can create offense on their own, as can dynamic guard Lou Williams, who's adept at perimeter scoring and getting to the bucket.
The Nuggets have a shot creator and playmaker in Murray, along with the NBA's best passing big man in Nikola Jokic. Without Beverley to mark up Denver's floor general, Leonard or George are likely to draw that defensive assignment.
What's different about the Nuggets compared to the prior two regular-season meetings, which were split, is the emergence of Michael Porter Jr. The injuries to Barton, Harris and Murray to start the bubble allowed MPJ to blossom in Orlando, as he's led the team in scoring and rebounds in three individual games.
Porter has the type of length, explosive strength and athletic ability to D up on Leonard and George. Not to mention, his skill set is a matchup nightmare for the Clippers' superstar tandem, which should go a long way in helping Denver get the best of this season series — or at least make for a closer contest tonight.
Clippers games hit the Under with the seventh-most frequency among NBA teams, according to TeamRankings.com data. With both sides missing vital players and the pace likely to slow due to the playoff-type atmosphere, expect the majority of wagers to side with the Under.
It's been a bit of a shaky bubble period for L.A., as the Clips have posted a 3-3 record, shuffling players in and out of the rotation due to injury, quarantine or other reasons. The Nuggets' moneyline is a strong bargain, so that should see the most action, but look for sentiment bias and star power to push more bets on the Clippers' spread.
Note: Odds current as of 1:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday, August 12.
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