The Denver Nuggets won the series opener against the Utah Jazz, but are in peril amid two straight losses entering Sunday's Game 4 showdown.
Coach Quin Snyder continues to have the Jazz ready to rock no matter the circumstances, plugging in anyone into his system and overcoming a lack of scoring to gain the upper hand in this best-of-seven Round 1 clash.
Can Denver even the score, or will Utah put the Nuggets on the brink of elimination? In abe Insights' preview, you'll have a better idea of how to approach this matchup from a betting standpoint.
Date: Sunday, August 23
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Nuggets 43%; Jazz 58%
Spread: UTAH -3
Moneyline: DEN +135; UTAH -140
The Nuggets' lacking perimeter rotation has been painfully obvious of late. Guards Will Barton and Gary Harris, who are probably the best backcourt defenders the team has, still haven't returned from injury. Per ESPN.com, Barton has left the bubble, and Harris is doubtful for Game 4.
As for the Jazz, veteran leader Mike Conley Jr. left Orlando to attend the birth of his son, but came back to score 27 points, including seven 3-pointers, in Utah's 124-87 rout of Denver in Game 3.
121.7 vs. 113.1: During the last eight games of the regular season in the bubble, the Nuggets ranked dead-last in defensive rating. The second figure is Utah's stat in the same area, which was better in ranking 15th, albeit not spectacular.
15.2 vs. 13.9: One issue that kept the Jazz from ascending higher in the West was their turnover percentage in 2019-20, which is the initial number here. That was sixth-highest in the Association, whereas Denver took better care of the ball, with the ninth-lowest giveaway rate.
99.15 vs. 97.64: These last two stats are the PACE rating for Utah and the Nuggets respectively. The Jazz had the seventh-fewest possessions per game, while Denver had the second-fewest. Perhaps the Nuggets will attempt to slow things down and playing more to their style of half-court execution after getting blitzed on defense thus far.
Donovan Mitchell had a horrendous go of it against Denver in the regular season. In three outings, he shot a woeful 30.4% from the floor and 22.6% from 3-point range while averaging 19 points. The playoffs have seen Mitchell rise to another level, with shooting splits of 56.7/50/96.2 and 35.7 points per contest.
With the third-most points (57) in a single postseason game ever in the series opener, Mitchell's extraordinary individual effort wasn't enough. Now, the supporting cast around Utah's only surefire, ball-dominant volume scorer is responding in a big way.
Utah has scored 124 points in each of the last two games. Conley's eruption in his bubble return was a huge help, but the role player who's really shown out since arriving with the Jazz is Jordan Clarkson. Unable to truly find his stride at multiple prior NBA stops, Clarkson is showing his true potential, highlighted by a 26-point Game 2.
It's starting to look like Utah is secretly the squad with more depth, when that was an indubitable strength Denver could draw on throughout the season. Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray was chatting up the Jazz and coming up clutch with 36 points in his side's 135-122 overtime win to tip this series off, but he's scored just 26 points since.
Something intangible was seriously wrong — or maybe, just every tangible thing was wrong — when the Nuggets lost by 37. They can't play much worse, which is reflected in the respect oddsmakers are giving them, yet they're not really showing signs of rallying on the basketball court right now. That has to change, or else they'll be send home early via a disappointing first-round exit.
These teams are obviously capable of scoring in bunches, as the entire series has provided evidence of. Save for Denver's woeful play the last time out, plenty of buckets have transpired, so look for more bets to go on the Over among the public.
Although recency bias is a potential harbinger of doom for Nuggets-Jazz Game 4, there shouldn't be much faith in the underdogs right now. Barring a monster Nikola Jokic triple-double and a far better defensive effort, Denver will trail 3-1 by Sunday's end.
Absent indications of either aforementioned positive Nuggets developments coming to fruition, look for wagers to trend toward the Utah moneyline and spread.
Note: Odds current as of 1:35 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 23.
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