The two teams face off in Phoenix for Game 2 of their Conference semifinal series with the 2021 NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic, looking to bounce back after a loss in Game 1.
With just one game to choose from, our crew is eyeing the spread and one prop in tonight’s matchup. You can see how they are betting Game 2 below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns
Despite mainstream media looking for reasons not to give the Most Valuable Player Award to Nikola Jokic, he’s been by far the league’s best player this season. He’s helped his team overcome losses to Jamal Murray, Will Barton, and PJ Dozier, advancing to the second round of the playoffs by defeating Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the Portland Trailblazers without elite guards.
At some point there’s only so much impact one player can have and I believe we’ve reached that point. Michael Porter Jr. is dealing with lower back tightness and if he is not be 100%, that’s one less threat on this already depleted Nuggets team against a strong Suns team.
In many ways it feels like people are still underrating the Suns. Aside from eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers in Round 1, they ranked sixth in both Offensive Rating (117.7) and Defensive Rating (111.5) and truly have everything you want from a championship contender.
They have a veteran point guard who can create plays for others while getting his own shot in Chris Paul and one of the best pure scorers and closers in the league in Devin Booker. They have 3-and-D wings in Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Cam Johnson along with an up-and-coming center in Deandre Ayton who played the league’s MVP in Jokic to a stalemate in Game 1 scoring 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds.
Ayton finished the game with a Plus/Minus of +13, so despite Jokic 22 points, dishing three assists and grabbing nine rebounds, the Nuggets were outscored in his minutes on the floor. A key point of emphasis is that the Nuggets are dead last in field goal percentage at the rim, allowing opposing teams to shoot 68.1%, so Ayton’s performance isn’t an anomaly. We could see him put up big numbers again and if that’s the case, the Nuggets, who were already floating on thin ice, are completely drawing dead here.
Unlike the Blazers, this Suns team actually has an NBA caliber defense and wings who are still worthy of getting NBA playoff minutes. In some ways it feels like we haven’t seen the Suns’ best game in this series despite winning 122-105.
The Nuggets led for 27:29 of game time and had a 10-point third quarter lead before the Suns went on a 34-9 run to take control of the game. The Suns were just 7-of-21 (33.3%) behind the arc in the first half and got a ton of quality looks that didn’t fall. Those shots fell in the second half and given the lack of guards on this Nuggets roster, they have no hope of slowing down Paul, Booker and the Suns on offense.
Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns
Joe Dellera: Nikola Jokic has been incredible this season and was rightfully named the league’s MVP yesterday.
One thing that’s been different about the playoff version of Jokic vs. the regular season version is his assist numbers are down from an average of 8.3 assists per game to 4.3 assists per game. I’m still a bit leery on fading his assists total though because he seems to pass more in victories than in defeats.
That being said, someone else on the Nuggets’ roster has picked up a bit of the slack. Rookie point guard, Facundo Campazzo, who has made quite a few flashy passes this season has seen an uptick in his usage and assist percentage during the playoffs.
He’s averaging eight minutes more per game and nearly two more assists per game as well. Over the regular season, he averaged just 3.6 assists per game; during the playoffs this number has risen to 5.3 assists.
His assists prop is currently set at 4.5 at plus money and our Action Labs model projects him at 5.1 assists. Considering he has gone over this total in five of seven playoff games, and is averaging 9.0 potential assists per game — I like him to continue his strong passing.
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