After the first two spots, the NBA’s Western Conference playoff bracket is an absolute mess. Seeds Nos. 3 through 10 are separated by a mere 4.5 games with about seven weeks remaining in the regular season.
Two teams in the midst of that chaos, the 33-27 Denver Nuggets and 31-27 Los Angeles Clippers, will meet for a big matchup in Denver tonight (10:30pm ET Tuesday on TNT).
Denver, currently the eighth seed, has lost the only matchup against ninth-seeded Los Angeles. If the Clippers win tonight, they will leapfrog the Nuggets for the eighth seed because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. Both teams have been playing pretty well as of late. Los Angeles has won six of its last eight games and Denver has won seven of its last nine contests.
Today will almost assuredly bring an entertaining contest between two solid teams jostling for playoff positioning. We will explore what factors will swing this game one way or the other, then venture a hypothesis at how it will play out, concluding with this preview’s LA Clippers vs Denver Nuggets predictions and betting picks.
What’s Situation With Paul Millsap?
Millsap, Denver’s starting power forward, has missed more than three months with a wrist injury. The team went 24-20 in his absence, but we shouldn’t underestimate his impact. Millsap made four consecutive All-Star Games from 2014 to 2017 while he was a member of the Atlanta Hawks.
The 33-year-old big man is finally not listed as “out” on the injury report against the Clippers. He’s questionable to play in this contest, which is a really important one for both teams.
The “questionable” label usually indicates a 50-50 chance a player will play. However, since it’s a home game and an important home game, this Clippers at Nuggets preview guesses that he will play.
If Millsap does return, the Nuggets will get an emotional boost and have an extra bounce in their step. He is also a tough matchup for the Clippers, who frequently utilize more perimeter-oriented players at the power forward position. Millsap is strong and will take advantage when he gets smaller defenders trying to check him.
Can DeAndre Jordan Sustain Significant Offensive Production?
Jordan is not known for producing much on offense. He is primarily a rebounder and defensive rim protector who slams down the occasional alley-oop or put-back.
Recently, though, the veteran center has turned it on. He has averaged 16.6 points and 2.4 assists per contest in his last five games, which is a big improvement from the 11.4 points and 1.3 assists per contest he averaged in his first 48 games this season.
Denver has an offensive beast of a center in Nikola Jokic. Jokic has averaged 22.2 points and a spectacular 9.6 assists per game in February. Jordan will do his part on defense to limit Jokic, but he will also need to respond to his counterpart with a sizable offensive contribution on Tuesday.
Can Clippers’ Defenders Rotate Better on Perimeter?
Unstoppable force, meet (very) movable object. This game features a matchup between the Nuggets’ hot three-point shooting versus the Clippers’ ice-cold three-point shooting defense.
In the last 15 games, Denver is fourth in the NBA in both made threes per game (12.5) and three-point percentage (39.5). The Golden State Warriors are the only other team that is top-four in both categories.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles has allowed 12.8 threes made per game in the last nine games, second-worst in the league. The 38.3 percent they yield from downtown is ninth-worst.
Los Angeles is without Avery Bradley in this game, too, which is a blow to its perimeter defense. Lots of Milos Teodosic and Lou Williams is not a good thing for the Clippers’ defense. There will have to be a team-wide effort to cover the three-point line so Denver doesn’t go crazy from the outside.
Our Preview’s Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets Betting Picks & Predictions
Denver is way better at home, with a 24-8 record at Pepsi Center and a 9-19 record everywhere else. The team also has a potential lift coming from Paul Millsap. The Clippers are also a bit banged up, playing without Danilo Gallinari and Avery Bradley. In our effort to beat the best of the online sports betting sites, here are the Los Angeles Clippers vs Denver Nuggets predictions for this preview:
- Denver is a modest favorite, with a 4 or 4.5 point advantage with most sportbooks. Bet Denver -4pts @ -110 with 5Dimes.
- These are two very offensive-minded teams who might not have much of a defensive answer for each other. Even with the potential return of Millsap, who is good on defense, the pace and offensive production will be very high. Bet the over 232pts total points @ -110 with Intertops or BetOnline.