Which team is going to earn the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed this season? It’s likely coming down to two teams: the 52-24 Golden State Warriors and 51-25 Denver Nuggets. The squads will face each other today in Golden State for a very important matchup (10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on TNT).
If the Warriors win, they will be up two games on the Nuggets with five games to go and possess the head-to-head tiebreaker. If the Nuggets win, the teams will have equal records with a 2-2 head-to-head record. Denver would then be the No. 1 seed due to having a superior record against Western Conference teams.
Despite both teams’ excellent records, they have been inconsistent recently. The Warriors are just 11-9 in their last 20 games, with losses of 35, 33 and 22 points in that span, plus a home loss to the 17-60 Phoenix Suns. Since a 42-18 start, Denver lost four out of five, won six games in a row and then has lost three out of five games since then.
We will preview this much-anticipated matchup with a breakdown of three key factors. Then, we will present your best betting strategies and picks as part of our final Denver Nuggets vs Golden State Warriors predictions.
Can DeMarcus Cousins Stay Competitive in the Center Matchup?
Two years ago, everybody would have picked Cousins over Nikola Jokic for their team. Cousins was averaging around 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists per game, compared to 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for Jokic.
Now, they have switched places, due to Jokic’s improvement in Denver and Cousins’ Achilles injury last year. Jokic has an argument as the No. 3 candidate for MVP and Cousins has been just OK in his injury-plagued season with the Warriors. His fit in the offense has sometimes been awkward, since there are already several very good offensive players on the team.
That said, Cousins is still capable of a massive performance. If he can play Jokic close to evenly today, the Warriors will roll over the Nuggets.
Will Gary Harris Step Up For His Tough Wing Matchup?
Harris has had a disappointing season for the Nuggets this year. A hip injury in December sidelined him for four weeks, then he sat for seven games in February with a groin injury. Ever since the first injury, he has been up and down, but mostly down.
The 24-year-old shooting guard was starting to come around in the middle part of March. In his last four games, though, he is averaging just 7.8 points, 2.3 assists and 2 turnovers in 32.5 minutes per game with a true-shooting percentage of 43.1. He has looked very tentative to shoot and drive despite being a 16-to-19 point-per-game scorer last season and the early part of this season.
Harris will have the challenge of checking guys such as Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala in this game, with maybe a little bit of Stephen Curry sprinkled in. He has played Golden State twice this season, with a great game (28 points) in the win and a stinker (six points) in the loss.
Denver needs good Harris to make an appearance on both ends of the floor in this contest.
Can Denver Keep the Pace of This Game Under Control?
The Nuggets play the fifth-slowest pace in the NBA, at 97.7 possessions per game. They like to keep opponents out of transition and use their ability to execute in half-court situations to their advantage. When there are more than 98 possessions in their games, they are just 16-14. When there are 98 or fewer possessions, the Nuggets are 35-11.
When the Warriors have more than 100 possessions in their games, they are 31-11, compared to 21-13 when there are fewer than 100 possessions.
Golden State will have a major advantage if the pace of this game is fast. The Warriors run the fast break very well with their excellent finishing, passing and transition three-point shooting. The Nuggets aren’t nearly as athletic as the Warriors and need to avoid turnovers and get back on defensive quickly.
Our Preview’s Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors Predictions & Betting Picks
Both teams should be very motivated for this game, which should be an advantage for the Warriors. They play regular season games with a lower baseline level of motivation because of their tremendous amount of talent and their annual playoff success.
At home, the Warriors will get even more of a boost from their crowd, making for a fast-paced game that should see the Dubs win by a considerable margin. So, with a view to beating the American betting sites, here are the Denver Nuggets vs Golden State Warriors predictions for this preview:
- The Warriors are favored by 8 points with the bookies. The best idea here is betting on the Warriors -8pts @ best odds of -110 with Intertops. It is -115 or worse with the others.
- Because Golden State should be amped to secure the No. 1 seed and take it easy the rest of the regular season, they will ramp up the pace in front of their home crowd. Put your money on the over 220.5 total points @ -110 with Bookmaker or BetOnline. The total is 221pts with Bovada.
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.