Trail Blazers vs Nuggets NBA betting picks and predictions: Portland’s luck runs out in Denver
The Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets are playing bumper cars in the NBA Western Conference standings. The Blazers, who are currently in fourth, can make a go at the No. 2 or No. 3 seeds in the West while the Nuggets, who sit second overall, are two games back of the Golden State Warriors. Friday’s game is a win both teams desperately need.
We break down the NBA betting odds for this matchup and give our predictions and best bets for Trail Blazers at Nuggets.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS AT DENVER NUGGETS (-6.5, 215.5)
The Nuggets seemed to snap out of their offensive funk in Wednesday’s win over San Antonio, after stumbling on that end of the floor in the previous six games.
The issue for Denver during this stretch hasn’t been slow starts but bad second-half efforts, and books expect the team to pick up where they left off Wednesday in this meeting with Portland, pricing the Nuggets as large -179 favorites to reach 25 point first Friday.
There’s plenty of value on the other side of this prop. The Trail Blazers didn’t win the “Race to 25” in Wednesday’s home win over Memphis (losing 23-25) but has crossed that finish line first in each of the six games prior.
Portland is sixth in first-quarter defense – giving up an average of just 26.6 points in the opening 12 minutes (25.8 on the road) – and has limited its last three opponents to only 21.3 first-quarter tallies.
The Nuggets, who outraced the Spurs 26-18, have split wins and losses in the “Race to 25” prop over the last four games and fell 25-21 to Portland when these teams last met back in mid-January.
This race will be close, but a small flyer on the Blazers is worth the wager.
PREDICTION:Portland First to 25 (+128) at PointsBet
FIRST HALF BET
As mentioned, Denver’s recent scoring struggles have mostly shown up after the halftime break and the team looked great in the first two quarters versus San Antonio, totaling 61 first-half points Wednesday.
The Nuggets average almost 60 points per first half inside the Pepsi Center for the season and have hung an average of 55 points on the board in the opening 24 minutes over their last seven games.
As for the Trail Blazers, outside of a snoozer versus Detroit on March 30 (just 34 first-half points), they’ve been electric in the opening half. Portland has amounted first-half scoring totals of 62, 75, 60, 59, 62, 59, 65 over their last eight games.
These teams combined for 118 and 121 points in the first half of their last two meetings and should comfortably cruise over this first-half Over/Under Friday.
PREDICTION: First-half Over 105 (-110)
The catalyst for Denver’s sudden awakening on offense Wednesday night was an increase in ball movement, creating quality looks that led to a 54-percent shooting performance in the win over San Antonio.
The Nuggets finished the night with a total of 41 assists on 47 shots, with 11 of those helpers coming from guard Jamal Murray. During the team’s previous six games, Murray topped five assists only once – totaling nine in the victory over OKC in which Denver scored 115 points on 56.5 percent shooting.
“That’s what we stressed,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told the media of the massive assist total in Wednesday’s win. “Everyone was worried about our shooting struggles, but as long as we’re generating good shots and playing for each other, that’s all we care about.”
With Malone emphasizing ball movement and Murray a key contributor in the assist category when this offense is clicking, we expect him to dish out his fair share of dimes Friday night.
FULL GAME TOTAL
There’s a sense of urgency with the Nuggets heading into Friday, not only trying to chase down the Warriors for the top seed in the West but also keeping the wolves at the door, with teams like the Trail Blazers looking to knock Denver from the second spot.
Denver got some breathing room with the win over the Spurs and while most of the attention was on its return to form on offense, the Nuggets did a good job on the other end of the court. They limited San Antonio to 85 points on 38 percent shooting and have been stellar on defense in recent games inside the Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets have held the last five visitors to just 94.2 points per game and rank as the third-best home-court defense in the NBA, budging for only 103.7 points per game in front of the Colorado faithful.
Granted, those last five opponents were far from offensive juggernauts, but they’re hosting a Blazers squad down two starters who account for almost 37 points per game. And, as mentioned, there is major postseason weight swaying in the contest, so expect playoff-like intensity and tough defense in the final two quarters.
PREDICTION: Under 215.5
FULL GAME SIDE
Portland has had some good and bad luck during the home stretch of the NBA season.
Bad luck: The Trail Blazers lost standout center Jusuf Nurkic to a broken leg and could be without shooting guard C.J. McCollum until the postseason.
Good luck: Portland has faced a relatively soft schedule since those guys went down, going 4-1 SU and ATS without Nurkic in the middle and 8-1 SU and 5-3-1 ATS without McCollum contributing.
That luck runs out Friday. Denver is on a mission and set to exploit that rather large gap in the paint for the Portland defense.
Even with the 7-foot Nurkic healthy, the Blazers ranked among the bottom of the league in defending centers, allowing 26.1 points per game to big men while getting beat up by points in the paint and second-chance buckets. Denver’s Nikola Jokic is among the best centers in the league and hung 40 points on the Blazers last time they met.
As for making up for McCollum, backcourt mates Seth Curry and Rodney Hood aren’t picking up the slack as much as the team would hope. Portland will see the effects of a short bench even more so in the thin air of Denver, and finally feel the impact of losing two standouts Friday night.
PREDICTION: Denver -6.5
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