It is the final few days of the NBA regular season. At this point, we often see playoff teams play with significantly differing levels of motivation, often utilizing different lineup combinations to see how things could work in the postseason.
The focus for teams, though, is not to show too much to potential playoff opponents so the opponents can easily scout them.
We could see some of these things in today’s game between the 47-23 Los Angeles Clippers and the 46-25 Denver Nuggets (9 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN). These teams are the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the Western Conference, respectively, but their matchups for the first round of the postseason are still very much undecided.
Using a few questions, USAbetting will break down what should be an interesting game from a strategy standpoint. After that, we’ll predict the betting outcomes for the contest with our Los Angeles Clippers vs Denver Nuggets predictions and picks.
Will Clippers Take Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. Seriously as a Star Forward?
Porter has taken the NBA bubble by storm as a key scoring option for the Nuggets. The redshirt rookie has shown total confidence in his offensive arsenal and rightfully so. The 6’10” forward has put up 26.4 points per game over his last five contests on a ridiculous 59.7/51.5/95.8 shooting slash. His playmaking still needs work, but that’s not necessarily his role on a team that already has enough strong passers.
Theoretically, the Clippers do have the perfect players to limit Porter. Veteran forwards Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Marcus Morris are all big, athletic and savvy defenders who can keep Porter away from the spots he wants to get the ball for shots.
Will Porter actually get treated like a star player by the Clippers’ coaching staff in this contest? I could see it going either way. Los Angeles may realize that it is likely to face the Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs and elect not to show its hand with regards to its defensive strategy on Porter.
However, the Clippers could also take the approach of trying the strategy today, attempting to disrupt Porter’s confidence.
How Will Seeding Battles Affect Teams’ Motivation Levels?
The Clippers and Nuggets are very likely to stay as top-three seeds and neither team will pass the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 1 seed. Between the two teams, the No. 2 seed is up for grabs. However, since there won’t be any home-court advantage in the Orlando bubble, the only real difference between getting the No. 2 seed or the No. 3 seed is who the first-round opponent will be.
As of 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks are all in the running to grab the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds and play either the Clippers or Nuggets in the first round. The Jazz and Mavericks do seem to be in pole position for sixth and seventh seeds right now, respectively.
If one of these teams really wants to face the Jazz as opposed to the Mavericks in the first round, they could be slightly less motivated to pull out a win in this game. Utah is missing forward Bojan Bogdanovic, a 20-point scorer and ace outside shooter who made the team’s offensive attack considerably more dynamic. All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell is also nursing what seems to be a minor leg injury for the Jazz.
Will either of these teams be paying attention to seeding in this contest or will they try to whip themselves into playoff shape by playing their best?
Will Clippers Focus on Making the Extra Pass?
The Nuggets, especially in their current form regarding injuries, are not a particularly swift team defending the perimeter. They are susceptible to squads that move quickly with the dribble or with the pass. That bears itself out in the fact that Denver opponents have made 16.3 three-pointers per game at a 45 percent clip in Orlando. Both of those numbers are in the bottom two among bubble teams.
Los Angeles doesn’t have many players who are lightning quick with the ball but the Clips are a team capable of crisp ball movement around the perimeter. In the last Clippers-Nuggets matchup, Los Angeles registered 35 assists on 48 made baskets, shooting 18-of-39 from three-point range en route to a 132-103 win over a healthy Denver squad.
While the Clippers have many players who like to create their own shot (and are good at doing so), they can’t get caught up in merely relying on self-made offense in this game. The ball needs to move around the perimeter, forcing bigger and taller players like Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Michael Porter, Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol to take long closeouts to the three-point range. Remember, the Nuggets are missing two key perimeter defenders in this game, Gary Harris and Will Barton.
Our Betting Preview’s LA Clippers vs Denver Nuggets Predictions & Picks Verdict
The Clippers are the veteran team in this matchup. I think they’ll approach this game in a more relaxed manner, knowing that it is important not to reveal too much ahead of a potential best-of-seven playoff series. The Nuggets have a redshirt rookie in Michael Porter Jr. who is trying to keep building confidence, as well as Jamal Murray, who is trying to get back to his normal self after a hamstring injury. Denver is a younger team that is in “prove-it” mode more than the Clippers. The Nuggets will probably play a bit harder.
Without Patrick Beverley for the Clippers and Gary Harris for the Nuggets, I think both teams’ perimeter defenses will be worse than the norm. However, due to Denver’s motivation level, I see the Nuggets outscoring the Clippers
- The top rated online bookies‘ favorites in this contest are the Clippers by 5.5pts. Put your money on the Nuggets +5.5pts @ best odds of -110 with Bovada, Bookmaker, Intertops or 5Dimes.
- Lower motivation levels usually affect a defense more significantly than an offense. The Clippers’ normally stout defense will not play up to its potential today. As such, I think you should probably bet the over 228.5 total points @ -100 with Bovada, Bookmaker, Intertops, BetOnline or 5Dimes.