Nuggets vs. Clippers Betting Preview: Take Denver to Cover on the Road

Action Network contributor Kenny Ducey breaks down how to bet Friday's matchup between the Nuggets and Clippers.

Nuggets vs. Clippers Odds

Nuggets Odds -3.5
Clippers Odds +3.5
Over/Under 218.5 
Time 10:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Clippers saw their three-game losing streak snapped at the hands of the Warriors on Thanksgiving Eve, and establishing a new one on Friday against the Nuggets could be difficult with several key players still missing.

While Denver’s form has been so-so of late, it should at least have Nikola Jokic for this one. Is that enough to cover on the road? Let’s take a closer look at this one.

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Denver’s Defense Needs to Catch Up to Its Offense 

On the surface, things don’t look all that bad for the Nuggets. After all, they’ve won two of their past three and covered in both of those victories. Their overtime victory against the Thunder could have easily gone the other way, however, and had it it would have marked the fourth loss in five games.

Denver has been lethal on offense to this point, benefiting greatly from the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, Jr. at the beginning of the season, but its defense has seriously suffered, ranking 27th in the league.

The biggest issue has been the interior, where the Nuggets have ranked sixth-worst in contested field goal percentage inside of 10 feet and fourth-worst inside of six feet. With that said, while they’re down in 30th in 2-point defense, they’re 10th in 3-point defense, allowing just 35.5% of looks to fall.

You’d assume this deadly combination of offense and no defense would mean the Nuggets have a lot of games that go over, but they’re just 19th in Pace and have seen the total split 9-9 in their 18 games. With that said, the Over is 8-4 in Denver’s 12 road games.

Michael Porter, Jr. is currently questionable for this game, which is a hard bit of news to get a read on. He missed Wednesday’s win over the Thunder with a heel issue, and it had come after he’d just rebounded from two of his worst games of the year. If he plays, it’s certainly no guarantee that he can get back to playing that way again so soon.

Clippers in Trouble Without Star Players

This is a fascinating matchup considering the strength of the Clippers lies inside. While Denver is one of the worst teams in the NBA at defending in the paint, the L.A. is one of the best. It ranks fourth in defended field goal percentage inside of six feet and eighth inside of 10 feet.

In theory, this helps the league’s second-ranked defense grow even stronger considering the Nuggets’ offense runs through Nikola Jokic. The bad news is that LA is going to have nothing on the other side of the ball.

The Clippers are missing Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Luke Kennard once again on Friday, which is a devastating list of names to be without. They scored just 104.9 points per 100 possessions in Wednesday’s loss to the Warriors, and their defense was unrecognizable with a 121.6 Defensive Rating.

Now, the Warriors did hit 19 3s in that game, converting at a 37.3% clip from deep. While that’s what we’ve come to expect out of Golden State, it did come against the seventh-best 3-point defense in the NBA. My bigger issue is that Golden State out-rebounded L.A. and out-scored its opponent in the paint, taking away what was supposed to be the Clippers’ biggest advantage.

It seems we can’t call this team’s interior defense and their rebounding a strength without George and Leonard, which leads me to believe Friday’s game could be trouble.

Nuggets-Clippers Pick

The Clippers’ role players performed admirably against the Warriors on Wednesday night and did seem prepared to cover the 9.5-point spread at times, but they were simply overmatched out there without at least one of their best two players available. On top of that, they were missing a fantastic offensive weapon in Kennard.

The Nuggets have the league’s best 3-point field goal percentage, so if you thought the Warriors’ 3-point barrage was bad it could get even worse here for the Clippers. I’m not really as concerned with L.A.’s interior defense as I was prior to the Warriors game, but if Ivica Zubac and company decide to put the clamps on Jokic down low I think Denver should have plenty of success from the perimeter.

I’d actually make Denver a slightly bigger favorite here, and I think it finds a much-needed, confidence-building win here.

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