First to 15 Bets: Nuggets Have Edge in Matchup of West Elites

Malik Smith takes a look at a First to 15 bet between to elite teams in the Western Conference.

There are so many ways to bet an NBA game, but for those bettors who can’t bear to sweat the full 48 minutes, there are other markets that offer more instant satisfaction. One of those markets is the Race to 15 Points. It’s as simple as the name suggests: The first team to hit 15 points cashes the bet.

Tonight, we’re focusing on one game between two of the top teams in West. Here’s a look at Friday’s First to 15 NBA odds and pick.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Denver Nuggets

First to 15 Odds Grizzlies: +110 | Nuggets: -140
Time | TV 10 p.m. ET | ESPN
SportsBook DraftKings

This is a matchup between two teams that are elite in the first quarter.

They just played Saturday night in Memphis, and while the final score wasn’t close, the first quarter was back-and-forth as they approached the 15-point mark. The Grizzlies actually led, 14-12, but the Nuggets hit 15 points first with a technical free throw for a defensive three-seconds followed by a tip-in from Nikola Jokic off a missed 3-pointer.

Tonight’s matchup takes place at Ball Arena, where the Nuggets have been nearly unstoppable when it comes to Race to 15 bets (25-7, 78.1%) — one of two teams to be the first to 15 in more than 70% of their home games.

They have a 125.6 Offensive Rating at home in the first quarter and a 63% Effective Field Goal Percentage despite ranking 19th in Pace in the first frame.

Over the past 10 games, the Grizzlies are 9-1 in the Race to 15 standings with their lone loss coming in that Saturday night game against the Nuggets, while the Nuggets are 7-3 over that same stretch.

The Nuggets are averaging 30.3 points in the first quarter, with the Grizzlies sitting at 29.6.

They’re so evenly matched that it’s tempting to take the Grizzlies at plus-money and assume they will win in a coin flip. However, I think the Nuggets have shown that they are the more consistent team in this context all season.

The Grizzlies fall just below that 70% threshold at home, which is great. But on the road, they’re 15-15 this season. That suggests the boost the Grizzlies get playing in front of their fans doesn’t always carry over to their road games.

They play fast by nature (fourth in first-quarter Pace and second on the road) but rank ninth in average time to 15 points this season (6:13) compared to the Nuggets, who rank first (5:46).

There’s another reason I don’t love the Grizzlies here. In that game Saturday, the Nuggets were sitting on 13 points and Jokic pulled down two offensive rebounds on the play that got the Nuggets to 15. That’s typically a big part of the Grizzlies’ offense, but without Steven Adams in the lineup since mid-January, the Grizzlies have gone from the No. 2 offensive rebounding team in the NBA to No. 19.

Denver is already the most efficient first-quarter team in the NBA. When you add in the fact that it should be able to get multiple shots on the same possession, that -140 price seems like value for the best team in the league.