The Denver Nuggets have rattled off two straight wins to force a Game 7 against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, which will cap off one of the most thrilling first-round NBA playoff series in recent history.
Denver's Jamal Murray and Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell are engaging in a scoring duel for the ages. Murray put up 50 points to keep the Nuggets alive in Game 6, but Mitchell had 44 in his own right in defeat.
Who will be more magnificent between Murray and Mitchell in tonight's rubber match? For more on them and a bigger picture preview of this tip-off, check out the rest of abe Insights' betting breakdown for the best odds, spread, lines and more.
Date: Tuesday, September 1
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Jazz 50%; Nuggets 52%
Spread: DEN -1
Moneyline: UTAH -102; DEN -109
The Nuggets were without Murray to start the bubble, and they wouldn't still be playing if he weren't healthy. Gary Harris also returned in Game 6 off a lengthy injury absence, which helps Denver's perimeter defense at the very least.
Utah doesn't have any significant injuries of late, but it's clear the team would be much more dangerous with Bojan Bogdanovic in action. Credit the Jazz for continuing on and for Mitchell picking up the slack in lieu of Bogdanovic, who averaged 20.2 points in 2019-20.
64.0 vs. 60.8: Neither of these squads have been particularly impressive on defense over the last six games, but credit the superior execution in half-court offense, too, as Utah has the highest true shooting percentage in the playoffs, followed by the Clippers, then the Nuggets in third (60.8%).
45.3 vs. 35.7: Part of the reason for the Jazz's superior TS% stat is their edge in points in the paint per contest during the playoffs. They're trailing only Lakers and Clips. On the other extreme, Denver has the third-lowest total in the category.
37.4 vs. 30.3: Finally, we have the playoff usage rates for Mitchell and Murray respectively. Utah's premier playmaker has the highest such percentage of any player, while Murray checks in at seventh, just behind Houston's James Harden.
Mitchell and Murray are taking control way more than they did during the 2019-20 campaign out of necessity. Their usage rates in the regular season were 30.3% and 24.8%. Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic (26.6%) actually had a greater usage share than Murray.
Now the offense is running through Denver's floor general, who's not only scoring at will, but also creating quality shots for his teammates, leading to a 6.7 assists average to go with 34 points per contest. Mitchell is used to carrying the load offensively for the Jazz, but he's elevating his status in the league to a new level right now.
The expectation is that these two dynamos will continue their brilliance. It's going to come down to how their supporting casts fare and who hits more open shots. Jokic has a tough head-to-head battle inside against defensive stalwart Rudy Gobert, yet has the passing ability and finesse to gain the upper hand in that matchup.
Jazz guard Mike Conley Jr. is a savvy vet who can score in bunches and is playing extremely well of late, averaging 22.8 points on 56.6% shooting this series. But the X-factor may well be Denver's Michael Porter Jr., who has been quiet since scoring 28 points in Game 2.
If Porter has a breakout performance to complement Murray, Utah stands little chance of staving off a blown 3-1 series lead. Should Mitchell and Conley continue pouring it on with a more efficient effort from Jordan Clarkson off the bench, though, then the Jazz could be in business to advance to the conference semis.
Momentum definitely favors Denver, and Colorado is bursting onto the sports betting scene. That combination should cause the Nuggets' spread and moneyline to take on the majority of bets.
As for the total points, there's no telling what kind of magic Murray and Mitchell might pull out for a Game 7. These decisive contests generally tend to feature sloppier execution and tighter defense, but given the heater these studs are on, look for the betting public to ride the Over in most cases.
Note: Odds current as of 1:35 p.m. ET on Tuesday, September 1.
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