Two squads at opposite ends of the NBA standings meet in Atlanta today as the 24-11 Denver Nuggets visit the 8-28 Atlanta Hawks (7:30 p.m. ET Monday).
While the Nuggets are very obviously the better team, recent play would suggest these teams might not be as imbalanced as their records indicate.
Denver will be playing the fourth game of a five-game road trip, a trip that has seen them lose by 26 points to the Houston Rockets and lose by 14 points to a Washington Wizards team missing its best player. The Hawks have kickstarted their season with two wins in their last three games. The loss came by just three points against the 25-8 Boston Celtics.
Will the surprising recent trends continue in this game? Unfortunately for the Hawks, they have some injuries to key players that may affect this game depending on their statuses. However, we’ll preview the contest from a strategic as well as a betting standpoint, ending with our Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks predictions.
Can Jamal Murray Produce as Much as Trae Young Offensively?
One exciting thing about this matchup is that both team’s point guards are explosive scorers who can easily heat up from three-point range. Murray is a solid No. 2 option in the Nuggets’ starting lineup and Young is clearly the main guy for the Hawks. Murray dropped 39 points in the Nuggets’ most recent game and Young just outdid him with 41 points in the Hawks’ most recent outing.
Overall, Young is the better offensive player. He is craftier, has a better shot and is more skilled as a passer. Murray is definitely very skilled, but it’s very likely that Young will produce more offense for the Hawks than Murray will for the Nuggets based on their respective skill sets and offensive roles.
In a game where three Hawks’ regulars (John Collins, Jabari Parker and Cam Reddish) are all questionable to play due to injury or sickness, the load for Young could be even heavier than usual. If Murray can keep the point guard battle reasonably close, the Hawks will have a lot of trouble winning.
Will Alex Len Maintain His Strong Two-Way Impact?
The Hawks have had an undeniably rough season. John Collins’ 25-game suspension hurt a lot, and the team’s young prospects outside of Trae Young have struggled to adjust to the NBA level of play. However, things would be even worse if it weren’t for Len.
In his last 17 games, Atlanta’s 26-year-old center has averaged 11.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 64.3 percent shooting from the floor in just 20.2 minutes per game. That’s a huge improvement from his 6.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists on 45.1 percent shooting in 16.8 minutes per game in his first 18 contests.
Len has played respectable defense all year, but it has improved as of late. In his last two contests, he has blocked a combined five shots and fouled just twice. This is big for a guy whose block-to-foul ratio was just 0.32-to-1 prior to those contests.
Nikola Jokic is one of the league’s premier big men. If Len can be somewhat effective against him, the Nuggets could struggle.
Will Mike Malone’s Rotations Be More Predictable?
The Nuggets are a deep team, which has its strengths and its weaknesses. You’d think that Denver’s bench would be strong, but it has underachieved this season, especially defensively. Head coach Mike Malone is a very good coach overall, but he has not been able to settle on consistent rotations so far and some of his decisions have been puzzling.
For example, the organization has been praising redshirt rookie Michael Porter Jr.’s development. He showed why with 25 points on 11-of-12 shooting in a road win against the Indiana Pacers. The next game, however, he played just 12 minutes as the Nuggets lost to the lowly Washington Wizards, who were playing without star Bradley Beal. The Nuggets also have a tendency to lose leads or fall further behind when the opponent plays its best scorer versus Denver’s bench-heavy units.
If Malone pushes the right lineup buttons in this contest, the Nuggets will be able to develop chemistry, and the players might be motivated to play a little bit harder.
Our Betting Preview’s Denver Nuggets vs Atlanta Hawks Predictions & Picks
The Nuggets have long been a team that fares better at home than on the road. Also, since their current road trip includes a lot of significant travel between cities, they could have tired legs.
Atlanta is dealing with some injuries, but they have the youthful athleticism to take advantage of a road-weary Nuggets squad and make this game close, if not win it outright.
- The Nuggets are favored to win by 8.5 points with firms offering online betting for USA players, but Atlanta should cover. This preview recommends going with the Hawks +8.5pts @ best odds of -107 with Bookmaker.
- Denver’s games have been much more high-scoring as of late, with both its offense surging and its defense declining. I expect Atlanta to keep the pace high and make this a high-scoring game for both teams. Put some money on the over 219 total points @ -110 with Bovada, Intertops or Bookmaker.