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The Denver Nuggets (16-9) will host the Brooklyn Nets (13-10) on Thursday, two days after reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic was controversially ejected from a game against the Chicago Bulls.
The Nuggets are 9-1 at home and have won each of their last two games, even despite Jokic, Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missing most or all of Tuesday’s matchup. The Nets are on the second night of a back-to-back but just beat the Phoenix Suns in the debut of their “Big Three.”
Here, we will react to the betting odds and share our favorite picks for the Thursday night Nets vs. Nuggets matchup.
The Nuggets are favored by 9.5 points at home. Jokic will be back and Murray is expected to return to the lineup, though Caldwell-Pope is in concussion protocol and could be out.
|Over 228.5 (-110)
|Under 228.5 (-110)
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The Nets can run hot or cold depending on the evening. They’ve played well lately, winning seven of their last nine games and taking down the Suns, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat in the process.
Brooklyn has many desirable qualities in the modern NBA. First and foremost, they have lots of tall, long wings that allow them to switch multiple positions on defense without ever being at a disadvantage in a particular matchup.
The Nets also have a couple of specialists, which is an underrated role in the NBA. Oftentimes, the conversation revolves around the plays of stars or the supporting cast, but the need for specialists exists within every team.
The Nets’ specialists include players such as Cam Thomas, who is averaging 23.4 points per game and will take and make difficult shots whenever the offense fails to generate an open look, and Nic Claxton, who’s sixth in offensive rebounds per game and seventh in field goal percentage amongst players averaging 15+ minutes per game.
Mikal Bridges leads the charge for Brooklyn, serving as the focal point. With an average of 23.1 points, six rebounds, and four assists, he has embraced an on-ball role more prominently since his trade from Phoenix.
Despite their personnel, the Nets’ team defense leaves a lot to be desired. They’re only 19th in defensive rating, though they’re also seventh in rebound rate.
The Nets also counteract a somewhat lethargic halfcourt offense with lethal three-point shooting (39.1% - second). That, combined with the shotmaking of Thomas and Bridges, allows them to bail themselves out of poor possessions that stem from them not having an elite playmaker.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets have been a clear-cut top-10 team in the league, though they haven’t looked like an obvious championship favorite like they did last year. Part of that is because Murray has missed lots of time, but they also haven’t been as dominant on offense as they were.
Ironically, Denver’s offensive rating is better than it was in 2022-23. However, they rank four spots lower in this category and have fallen behind teams in their own conference, such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.
Coach Michael Malone will be pleased with his team’s defensive improvements. A youthful second unit has contributed to them being better by giving multiple efforts and playing with energy, whereas they sometimes coasted on defense last year just to get back to their offense quicker.
Jokic is having another all-time season, averaging 27.2 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 9.4 assists. He is the center of a slow, methodical halfcourt offense that will go through a number of actions and will pass up a good shot for an even better look.
The team is decent on the glass and has the fifth-best turnover percentage, meaning they don’t give opponents many chances to get cheap points in transition.
A player to keep an eye on is rookie Julian Strawther. While many know him for making a buzzer-beater against BYU last year, he’s quietly stepped into a prominent role over the Nuggets’ last two games.
Strawther recorded 28 and 23 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks and Bulls, scoring 22 and 16 points, respectively. Even though Murray is returning to the lineup, Caldwell-Pope’s absence means that Strawther and Christian Braun could both be in for elevated roles in the rotation.
The Nets are in a tough spot playing back-to-back with both games on the road. It also doesn’t help that they played hard down to the final minute on Wednesday and now have to go to high altitude, where the Nuggets have been dominant over the past couple of seasons.
Jokic was extremely upset that he was ejected from his last game. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him come out with an elevated level of fervor, which means Claxton, who is significantly lighter than the Joker, will have his hands full.
The Nets have been a fun team to watch and have tons of potential with this roster, especially if they add an elite playmaking guard before the trade deadline. They’re also the best team against the spread in the NBA at 17-5-1, while the Nuggets are only 10-14-1.
With all that said, we’ll take the Nuggets to win and cover at home. The Nets are going to be zapped of energy, while the Nuggets will be fresh and have gotten impressive performances from their supporting cast recently.
Nets vs. Nuggets pick: Nuggets -9.5 (-110) at BetMGM
When: Thursday, Dec. 14 @ 7:00/9:00 p.m. MT/ET
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO
TV: NBA League Pass
Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.
In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.More info on Grant Mitchell
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