The 24-16 Los Angeles Clippers and 27-12 Denver Nuggets have exceeded expectations this season. These two top-four seeds in the Western Conference will do battle in Denver tonight (9 p.m. ET Thursday).
The Clippers’ current three-game win streak has been big to get the team back on track. Los Angeles had lost 10 out of 16 games prior to the streak and were regressing on both ends of the floor.
Denver is somehow still first in the Western Conference despite scores of injuries. Center Nikola Jokic is a dark-horse MVP candidate and role players like Monte Morris, Juan Hernangomez and Torrey Craig have stepped up at opportune times. Thankfully, the team has recently gotten Gary Harris and Paul Millsap from injuries to bolster the rotation.
Will the Clippers’ fast-paced offensive attack or the Nuggets’ more patient play win out in this game? Let’s discuss the matchup and then predict the betting outcomes with our preview’s picks and LA Clippers vs Denver Nuggets predictions.
Can Paul Millsap Win the Matchup Against Los Angeles’ Smaller Front Line?
Millsap recently came back from a toe injury that sidelined him for three weeks. Overall, the Nuggets’ power forward is on the decline at 33 years old and isn’t the same player that he was when he earned four All-Star appearances with the Atlanta Hawks.
However, Millsap is still a good player. He packs a good amount of brute strength in his 6’8”, 246-pound frame and is a smart post defender and versatile offensive player.
The Clippers take a different approach to their front line. Los Angeles often utilizes offensive specialists Danilo Gallinari or Tobias Harris as its power forward and attempts to beat the opposition using the perimeter offensive skills of Gallinari or Harris.
Millsap is stronger and more inside-oriented. Will he be aggressive enough on offense and quick enough on defense to stick with the Clippers’ perimeter-focused bigs?
Who Will Dictate Pace?
The Nuggets are historically known for playing a fast pace due to the higher elevation of Denver. Their teams emphasize getting in great shape so they can beat teams on their home floor.
This year’s Nuggets team is different. They rank 27th in the NBA in pace and have a record of 12-2 when the game’s pace number is 95.2 or slower. The Clippers, meanwhile, rank 9th in the NBA in pace. They haven’t even played a single game where the pace was 95.2 or slower.
Denver has a great half-court offense and will need to stay patient and avoid turnovers in this game. Meanwhile, the Clippers will want to fire up shots much more quickly to force the Nuggets out of their comfort zone.
Will Foul Trouble Be a Factor for Denver?
The Clippers lead the NBA in free-throw attempt to field-goal attempt ratio. What does that mean? It means Los Angeles is excellent at drawing fouls. The team constantly throws opponents out of their regular rotations by getting their players into foul trouble.
Big men like Nikola Jokic, Mason Plumlee and Paul Millsap can get handsy on the interior. They will need to stay disciplined in this game, because guys like Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams will make you pay for violating their space.
The Nuggets have pretty good depth, so this may not be as big of a factor as it would be for other teams. That said, Denver would like to stick to its regular substitution patterns and not have to give bench players too much burn.
Our Preview’s LA Clippers at Denver Nuggets Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
Denver is getting healthy again and the team is 13-6 at home against the spread this year, compared to 11-9 on the road against the spread for the Clippers. The Clippers’ ability to force foul trouble will be somewhat negated by Nuggets head coach Mike Malone lineup flexibility.
In terms of the over/under for the likely total points being scored, I think the Nuggets will realize that the Clippers aren’t accustomed to playing a slower pace and will beat them with their half-court offense.
- Denver is a 5.5-point favorite with the offshore sportsbooks. At home, the Nuggets have failed to win by six points only once in their past 10 opportunities. Bet on the Nuggets -5.5 @ best odds of -107 with Bookmaker.
- The big USA online bookies are predicting this to be a rather high-scoring game, putting the projected over/under at 225.5 total points. Put your money on the under 225.5pts @ -107, and once again those best odds are with Bookmaker.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.