The playoff seeding in the Western Conference is still very much uncertain. Seeds two through seven are all pretty tightly packed, and a lot could happen to move teams around in the next two weeks.
The 43-23 Denver Nuggets, the No. 3 seed, and the 41-24 Oklahoma City Thunder, the No. 5 seed, are both in the thick of the seeding battle. Today the two squads will take the court against each other in Orlando as they attempt to improve their seeding (4 p.m. ET Monday on NBA TV).
In this game preview, USAbetting discusses the burning questions that will help determine which team wins, and by how many points, as well as how many total points the teams will score. Finally, we’ll give our Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder predictions as they pertain to the betting lines posted by the leading U.S. sports betting companies.
Will Any of the Nuggets’ Reserve Players Catch Fire From Three-Point Range?
The Nuggets are badly missing perimeter shooting firepower right now. On a per-game basis, Will Barton, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris are first, second and fourth on the team in three-pointers made per game, and they combine for more than five made triples per contest. All three players were out with injuries for the Nuggets’ first official game of the restart and will be out again today.
How is that missing shooting going to be replaced? Denver’s current starting lineup has a few respectable shooters, with Michael Porter Jr. being the best. But the Nuggets need more. I’m looking specifically at some of the players from the team’s bench, such as Jerami Grant, Troy Daniels or Bol Bol.
Grant has hit at least five three-pointers in a game three times this season. Bol was one of the top outside-shooting prospects in the 2019 NBA draft, and his 7’2” size enables him to shoot over anyone. Daniels is a journeyman three-point shooting specialist who has knocked down five or more three-pointers 22 times in his 335-game career.
Denver was 8-of-35 from downtown against the Miami Heat on Saturday. That sort of performance cannot happen again, so keep watch for whether Grant, Bol or Daniels gives the team a shooting lift.
Will Thunder Stay Reasonably Competitive on the Glass?
Aside from starting center Steven Adams, and backup center Nerlens Noel, to a lesser extent, this Thunder team doesn’t have many standout rebounders. Many other players on the roster either don’t have great length or strength for their position. As a result, OKC ranks last in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage (19.4) and a below-average 20th in defensive rebound percentage (76.8).
The Nuggets are second in offensive rebound percentage (24.7). While the team is a mediocre 19th in defensive rebound percentage (77), that is with their normal rotation that includes much less size. The Nuggets’ rotation has a lot more length than usual right now. Players like Michael Porter Jr. (6’10”), Bol Bol (7’2”), Torrey Craig (6’7”) and PJ Dozier (6’6”) are getting extra minutes due to the absences of Barton (6’5”), Harris (6’4”) and Murray (6’4”).
You just know that Denver is going to attack the glass strongly in this one. The Thunder will need to adjust their rebounding strategy accordingly so that the Nuggets don’t dominate the possession battle.
Will Thunder Guards Play With Active Hands & Feet on Defense?
The Nuggets will obviously be missing the shooting from Murray, Harris and Barton today. However, those three absences also will have an impact on the team’s ball-handling. Denver essentially runs its offense through center Nikola Jokic’s passing and scoring abilities, but it still needs capable backcourt players to bring the ball up the floor and initiate some of the offense now and then.
Monte Morris, Michael Porter Jr., PJ Dozier and Troy Daniels will handle some ball-handling responsibilities alongside Jokic. Morris has been a very steady backup for the past two seasons, but the others will be slightly out of their element as key play initiators.
OKC has guards with quick hands and feet who can take advantage of sloppy offense. Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, Dennis Schroder, Andre Roberson and Hamidou Diallo all have the potential to make life very difficult for the Nuggets’ undermanned backcourt rotation. The Thunder perimeter stoppers can’t settle for lackadaisical or even decent effort. They need to be relentless in their pursuit of steals, blocks and all-around stout defense.
Our Betting Preview’s Denver Nuggets vs OKC Predictions & Picks Verdict
I have very little confidence in the Nuggets in this contest due to guards’ injuries. The Thunder backcourt trio of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder is going to make things very hard for Denver’s replacement players on the perimeter.
OKC will dictate pace by forcing lots of turnovers and doing its best to run in transition against a slower Nuggets team. Denver will likely have trouble keeping up. So here are the Denver Nuggets vs OKC Predictions against the oddsmakers for this preview:
- OKC are favored by 4.5 points with the sportsbooks in this game. The best pick here is betting on the Thunder -4.5pts @ -110 with Bovada, Bookmaker, 5Dimes or Intertops.
- Because of a pace that should be faster than these teams usually play, your best bet is choosing the under 219.5pts @ -110 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.