Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers Betting Preview: Denver Has Early Edge

Action Network analyst Austin Wang previews how to bet Monday's matchup between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers.

Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers Odds

Nuggets Odds -5.5
Trail Blazers Odds +5.5
Over/Under 226.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday evening.

The Blazers have started off the season hot with a 3-0 record that includes a win over the Phoenix Suns in overtime and a comeback win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. However, they are in an unfavorable scheduling spot on Monday with it being the second night of a back-to-back.

Even with an undefeated record, the Blazers are four-point underdogs at home. The total is set high at 230. Let’s break down this game to see if we can find value in either of those numbers.

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Key Nuggets Players Still Rounding Into Form

Nikola Jokic had to shoulder the burden of carrying this Nuggets team last season. Outside of Aaron Gordon, he struggled to get consistent help on the offensive end. The Nuggets got two key players back this season with the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

Porter has picked up right where he left off in the 2020-2021 season. He is shooting 12-for-24 from behind the arc in his first three games and appears to back to his sharpshooting self after his recovery from back surgery.

Murray has a minutes restriction and sat in one of the three games. It’s taking him time to get fully acclimated to the offense, but Murray has shown flashes of his old self. They may both be prolific scorers, but neither are strong defenders. As a result, the Nuggets are 23rd in Defensive Rating (115.2) through the first three games, per NBA Advanced Stats.

With both Porter and Murray back, expect the Nuggets to make some serious noise among the Western Conference title contenders. However, there will be some troubles and variance along the way. They opened up the season with a loss to the new-look Utah Jazz, turned around a beat the Golden State Warriors, and just barely beat the surprisingly feisty Oklahoma City Thunder in their third game.

Trail Blazers in Tough Schedule Spot

The Blazers are undefeated on this young season, and they have been doing it with defense. Their Defensive Rating is fifth overall (104.2), per NBA Advanced Stats. Their frontcourt of Jusuf Nurkic, Jerami Grant and Josh Hart are all solid defenders. Kudos to head coach Chauncey Billups for making this a point of emphasis.

The Blazers are on the second night of a back-to-back and that involves travel from L.A. to Portland and they’ve played three high-intensity games to open the season. I think this matters a ton early in the season while the conditioning of these players is not up to par just yet. Also, they are off a win, which could lead them to let their guard down.

This wasn’t just any game. It was a game against long-time rivals Lakers and against the legendary LeBron James. It involved an emotional comeback win that involved “Dame Time” heroics after he made that amazing 3-pointer with 12.4 seconds left to give them the lead. This is a prime let-down spot for the Blazers.

Nuggets-Trail Blazers Pick

The Nuggets have a rest advantage over the Blazers here with them getting the day off on Sunday. In addition, they were one of the best first-half teams on the road last season, going 25-17-1 ATS in the first half. On the other hand, the Blazers were 17-24 ATS in the first half on the road last season. I think the Nuggets have a nice edge in the first half.

To justify that even further, the Blazers have been dominating the fourth quarter with a Net Rating of +23.7 this season, which is second-best in the league. This is no surprise, as Lillard has been known to have ice in his veins with so many clutch plays in his career. But the Blazers did not cover the first half in their first two games and put up some pedestrian scoring numbers (19, 22, 23) in all three second quarters so far.

With the additional factor in mind, I am backing the Denver Nuggets in the first half. I like them to come out strong against the fatigued Blazers, and I get to avoid any potential late-game heroics.

Pick: Nuggets 1H -1.5 (up to -2.5)