Free NBA Picks: Nuggets at Blazers Odds
by Alan Matthews - 1/22/2014
This probably will be the only time I do a Nuggets-Blazers preview this season -- they play again Feb. 25 in Denver and March 1 in Portland -- and I knew my story line right away going in: I've said this before in a Blazers story, but I think they are the 2013-14 version of last season's Nuggets.
Under NBA Coach of the Year George Karl, Denver was the surprise team of the Western Conference last season in winning 57 games -- the Nuggets were practically unbeatable at home at 38-3 -- and earning the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. They didn't have a star but were very deep and ran teams into the ground with that long bench. However, in an April 4 home game against Dallas, Danilo Gallinari blew out his knee. That also realistically blew out Denver's chances of making much noise in the playoffs without their second-leading scorer. The Nuggets were no match for Golden State in the first round of the playoffs, lost Karl and star Andre Iguodala and are now swimming in mediocrity.
Portland is easily the surprise team in the West this season. It entered Wednesday's action holding down the down the No. 3 seed and could blow by last season's wins total by this weekend. I would say that Portland has two very, very good players in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, but are they stars? For sure they've never done anything in the playoffs. What the Blazers are is deep and high-scoring, and their coach, Terry Stotts, is likely a favorite for NBA Coach of the Year. I think Portland could win a round in the West but not sure it can beat the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers or Warriors. This is a team set up for the regular-season grind, not a playoff series.
Nuggets at Blazers Betting Story Lines
The Gallinari bad news continues for the Nuggets. They had long been saying they expected him back sometime this season, but apparently the surgery that Gallinari had was the conservative type. It didn't work, and he went back under the knife this week. He's done and now may not even be back by next season’s opening night. It's too bad because the Nuggets' winning percentage was .704 when he was in the lineup, and it's around .500 when not since the start of last season. The Nuggets have reached the playoffs 10 years in a row, but I see that ending. Perhaps the team even starts selling off its key assets like point guard Ty Lawson and does a complete rebuild.
Denver also remains without enigmatic center JaVale McGee since early November with a stress fracture in his leg. He can have dominating stretches but is mostly maddening. His return isn't imminent. The team also won't have backup forward/center Darrell Arthur on Thursday. He has missed four straight with a hip injury. Arthur averages 5.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in around 18 minutes.
Portland's main injury concern is to forward Nicolas Batum. He's playing through a broken finger on his non-shooting hand and almost sat out Tuesday because whatever splint he had wasn't working and he wanted a new one. Batum has been in single-digit points in four of the past five and is shooting just .439 percent from the field this month and averaging 9.9 points.
The Blazers just finished the Texas/Oklahoma Swing with losses Monday in Houston and the next night in Oklahoma City (they beat the Spurs and Mavericks to start the trip). Portland's 97 points vs. the Thunder were its fewest since Nov. 20 in Milwaukee. The Blazers still lead the NBA in scoring. The Nuggets struggle to stop anyone, allowing an average of 117 points the past four games, three of which they lost.
Nuggets at Blazers NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Portland opened as a seven-point favorite with a mammoth total of 221.5. The Nuggets are 18-22 against the spread (10-10 on the road) and 20-20 "over/under" (11-9 on road). The Blazers are 24-18 ATS (11-9 at home) and 29-13 O/U (14-6 at home). Denver is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 following a loss. It has covered just three of its past 12 against the West. Portland is 7-1 ATS in its past eight Thursday games. It has covered only three of its past 10 vs. the West. The over is 5-0 in Denver's past five road games. The over is 4-0-1 in the Blazers' past four Thursday games. The Nuggets are 0-4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past four at Portland.
Free NBA Picks: Nuggets at Blazers Betting Predictions
Portland ended a nine-game losing streak in the Mile High City with a 113-98 victory back on Nov. 1. The Blazers had four players with at least 18 points, led by Aldridge's 25. The Denver starters were terrible outside of Lawson's 21. The other four totaled 22 points.
I expect a spirited effort now that the Blazers are back home for the first time since last Wednesday. Lillard has struggled from the field in the past four but will relish the normal background of the Moda Center. Take the Blazers. I expect plenty of points, but 221.5 is too high.
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