Pick any adjective you can think of and it still may not suffice to describe what Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets are doing right now.
They just defeated Damian Lillard and a healthy Portland Trail Blazers team in six games.
And the Nuggets are far from healthy. It’s not just Jamal Murray either. Denver is also missing Will Barton and PJ Dozier. A Barton return is possible for the next series. For those betting on the Nuggets, keep that in mind as you contemplate a possible wager on the Western Conference semifinals against the Phoenix Suns.
Think about that: Jokić just won a series with a starting backcourt of Facundo Campazzo and Austin Rivers.
In the first-round series, the presumptive NBA MVP averaged:
- 33.0 points per game
- 10.5 rebounds per game
- 4.5 assists per game
Perhaps this will change the bizarre and weird narrative that Jokić is somehow not the MVP or really, really good.
What made the Nuggets’ win on Thursday even better? The Los Angeles Lakers lost in six games to the Suns. For those who know Denver sports history, the Lakers are the rock in the shoe for Mile High Basketball. Anytime the Nuggets are on the precipice of NBA greatness, Los Angeles crashes the party. The latest example came last season in the NBA Playoff bubble.
A quick side note, the Lakers’ loss is big for sportsbooks. How much are they rejoicing over LeBron James and LA getting eliminated? Of all the bets at DraftKings Sportsbook, 45% were on the Lakers to win the Western Conference.
While Denver avoids the Lakers in the NBA Playoffs, the Suns are a separate problem altogether. That’s to say, the challenge gets even bigger and stiffer for the Nuggets.
Nuggets vs Suns schedule
Game 1 of the second-round series starts at 8 p.m. MT on Monday in Phoenix on TNT. So at least the Nuggets get some rest before heading to the desert.
The rest of the Western Conference semifinal schedule:
- Game 2: 7:30 p.m. MT on Wednesday in Phoenix on TNT
- Game 3: 8 p.m MT on Friday in Denver on ESPN
- Game 4: 6 p.m. MT on Sunday in Denver on TNT
- Game 5: TBD Tuesday June 15 in Phoenix on TNT
- Game 6: TBD Thursday June 17 in Denver on ESPN
- Game 7: TBD Sunday June 20 in Phoenix TBD
Games 5, 6 and 7 are if necessary. What’s exciting for the games at Ball Arena is it will be near capacity. Given what we’ve lived through the last year, the atmosphere will be electric.
Nuggets vs Suns odds
To the surprise of no one, especially those betting on the Nuggets, Denver has opened as the series underdog. At DraftKings, the Nuggets are +175. Not a great line for bettors, but not terribly bad either.
As for Game 1 odds, the same holds true. Denver is a +4.5 underdog for the series-opening game.
As for the Western Conference and NBA Finals odds, the Nuggets remain long shots for both at the Colorado sportsbooks.
How the Nuggets pull off the upset
Most of the NBA betting world, and the basketball world, won’t give Denver much of a shot in this series.
Led by Devin Booker, the Suns are really good.
The difference maker is Jokić. That’s how good he is. The Nuggets big man is one of the best players in the NBA, evidenced by what we just witnessed in the Portland series.
Jokić will need to do the same again in this series, and he no doubt will. You have to account for him, and no one has been able to defend him this season.
That obviously sets the rest of the team up for success, it’s just a matter of whom. Right now, that’s Monte Morris, but with key contributions from Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon. That’s a sign of a deep team.
But the key in this series is defense and rebounding. The Suns are a much better defensive team than Portland, so Denver has to match that intensity. And while the Nuggets have the clear advantage in the frontcourt, Phoenix has it in the backcourt.
If the Nuggets want to pull off the upset, they’ll need their guards to match what they did in the first round to help take some of the defensive focus off of Jokić. It’ll be interesting to see how Jokić is defended in this series.
As for the regular-season series, Denver went 2-1 against the Suns.
The fact the Nuggets are even in this position is incredible. To do this without Murray, Barton and Dozier speaks to the guts and resiliency of this team.
It also shows that Jokić is a great and special player. When you have a generational talent like that on your team, you always have a chance no matter the odds.