The Los Angeles Clippers crushed the Denver Nuggets in their conference semifinals series opener, and have a shot to take a 2-0 advantage in Saturday's Game 2.
It showed that Kawhi Leonard and Co. were the better-rested team, as Denver suffered a letdown from its seven-game rally to beat the Jazz. Leonard had 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting in LA's 120-97 rout of the Nuggets.
Proceed further for the rest of abe Insights' Nuggets-Clippers preview, which supplies you with key stats, analysis of the primary betting lines, and the best odds available.
Date: Saturday, September 5
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Nuggets 22%; Clippers 81%
Spread: LAC -9
Moneyline: DEN +350; LAC -435
There aren't major injuries on either side, but if Game 1 is any indication, the Clippers' athleticism on the wing and superior overall quickness is going to make them a matchup nightmare for the heavy underdogs.
Plus, starting Los Angeles point guard Patrick Beverley was plagued by a calf injury before returning for this series' opener. Beverley is among the NBA's premier perimeter defenders, and having him on the court with Kawhi and Paul George at once makes half-court execution a supreme challenge for the opposition.
42.1 vs. 34.5: Defending 3-point shots is an area Denver has struggled mightily this postseason, ranking second-worst out of 16 teams. The Clippers' stalwart D from beyond ranks fourth in the NBA.
28.5 vs. 22.6: One advantage the Nuggets do have is a bigger frontcourt, which has resulted in the postseason's second-highest offensive rebound percentage. Meanwhile, L.A. hasn't crashed the glass as hard on offense — although that matters less in the context of the next stat.
58.6 vs. 54.4: The Clips rank first in effective field goal percentage during the playoffs, whereas Denver is sixth. It's ominous for the Nuggets that L.A. executes at such a high level regardless of where it shots are coming from.
Jamal Murray willed his Denver teammates back from a 3-1 series deficit against Utah and took on much more of the scoring load to get the job done. With Beverley back for the Clippers, and Kawhi or PG13 switching onto him at any given time, he'll need more help if the Nuggets are meant to stay competitive.
Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic took over versus the Jazz in a 30-point, 14-rebound effort in Game 7. He can be a little passive, too willing to defer due to his phenomenal passing ability. It's vital for Jokic to find that killer instinct and stay aggressive, taking the pressure off Murray and Denver's perimeter players.
Another Denver member who needs to find his stride again and sustain it is Michael Porter Jr., who was a breakout bubble star down the stretch of the seeding games. Porter has only hit six of his past 23 shots from the field, which isn't going to get it done. This is a young, rising star who averaged over 29 points in a four-game stretch in Orlando.
In addition to being a freakish athlete who can accentuate Denver's rebounding edge, Porter is a capable ball handler with a soft shooting touch. Nuggets coach Mike Malone needs to unleash his not-so-secret weapon before this series gets out of hand.
Otherwise, the loaded Clippers roster is going to continue smothering Denver. Beverley is going to be living rent-free in Murray's head. Leonard is going to continue his work as a quiet assassin on the court. And if George and Lou Williams are playing to even their average standard, the Nuggets are in serious peril.
Not much of a case to be made to bet on Denver, other than the sporadic effort Los Angeles had in its six-game series against the Mavericks and the fact that the Nuggets got off the mat against the Jazz.
Well, those elements are worth factoring in, as are the super long odds on Denver's moneyline. Because prospective payouts on that are so high, that's where most of the wagers should trend, but most bettors are likely to put action on the Clippers' spread.
Regarding the point total, L.A. is going to score almost at will, and the fourth quarter of Game 1 netted a combined 59 points. Thus, look for bets to favor the Over, as the Nuggets should improve on their 42.2/25.0/66.7 shooting splits from Thursday's contest.
Note: Odds current as of 1:50 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 5.
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