The Western Conference’s second-best and second-worst teams will be in action in Denver today as the 27-40 Dallas Mavericks visit the 44-22 Denver Nuggets (10:30 p.m. ET Thursday on TNT).
Obviously, these two teams’ seasons have gone very differently. The Nuggets have stayed close to the top of the Western Conference all season on the strength of Nikola Jokic’s MVP-caliber season and great depth.
The Mavericks were in contention for the playoffs early in the season, but trades, injuries and general regression to the mean have caused them to lose 11 of their last 12 games. Rookie Luka Doncic is still dazzling fans with his excellent play, however.
Denver is the obvious favorite on the U.S. bookies’ websites in this game. Will the Nuggets live up to that status today? Let’s talk about what will impact this game’s result and then decide the best way to bet with our picks and Dallas Mavericks vs Denver Nuggets predictions.
What’s the Situation With Luka Doncic’s Knee Strain?
Doncic played through a knee strain against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday and it showed. The Rookie of the Year favorite had probably his worst game of the season, shooting 5-of-18 from the field and 1-of-9 from the free-throw line while committing nine turnovers in 34 minutes.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle shouldered some responsibility for Doncic’s poor performance after the game, saying that he may have played him too many minutes.
There’s no indication yet that the Mavericks are planning to sit Doncic against the Nuggets, but I think it’s safe to assume that he’ll at least have a lighter minute load. If Doncic stays as limited as he looked against the Spurs, he is going to detract significantly from the Mavs’ already slim chances to win this game. However, if he gets back closer to his normal self, he might just have enough skill and confidence to lead the Mavericks to an upset victory.
Will the Nuggets Continue to Focus on Ball Movement?
The Nuggets have some pretty good one-on-one players. Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap are strong low-post options and Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton can all slash well from the perimeter.
However, the team has amazing passers and is at its best when the ball is being shared. In the Nuggets’ 133-107 win over the Timberwolves on Tuesday, they dished out a season-high 40 assists on their 51 field goals. In fact, the team is 17-2 this season when it tallies at least 31 or more assists.
The Mavericks are a weaker defensive team in general, so the Nuggets would probably have some success with a more one-on-one approach. However, Denver’s best chances at a blowout win lie in a more unselfish approach to this game.
Does One of the Mavs’ Non-Doncic Guards Have an Offensive Explosion in Them?
Right now, the guards who are playing the most for the Mavericks are Jalen Brunson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Devin Harris. None of these guys are known for playing good defense, and none is a major factor with their playmaking.
However, each has the ability to get hot as a shooter occasionally. Brunson just dropped a career-high 34 points against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. Hardaway has 30 games of at least 20 points this season. Harris, while way past his prime, has scored at least 13 points six times this season for the Mavs.
Denver is quite a bit more athletic and skilled on the perimeter. With Doncic likely sidelined or at least hobbled, Dallas’ only hope in this game may be to get an extraordinary outside shooting performance from an unheralded guard.
Our Preview’s Dallas Mavericks at Denver Nuggets Betting Picks & Predictions
The Nuggets are 16-1 at home against teams .500 or below. In those games, their average point differential is plus-18.6. Against a Mavericks team that is gearing up for next season and with Doncic likely hobbled or out, I’m not seeing Denver having any trouble whatsoever in this contest.
While the Mavericks’ defense has struggled of late, their Doncic-reliant offense has also been quite poor recently, and the Nuggets’ defense is also playing well. Expect this game to be slow-paced based on the fact that both of these teams tend to be more deliberate. These are the Dallas Mavericks at Denver Nuggets predictions for this contest:
- The Nuggets are favored by at least 11 points, which actually seems a bit low. Bet on the Nuggets -11pts @ -110 with Bovada, Intertops or BetOnline.
- The over/under for this contest is 220 points with basically all betting outlets. For the reasons outlined above, the second of the picks is to put money on there being under 221 total points scored @ -115 with Bovada. That total is a touch lower with the others.