Suns vs. Nuggets Game 1: Nikola Jokic, Denver Too Good at Home

Action Network contributor Austin Wang previews how to bet Suns vs. Nuggets, including updated odds, picks and predictions for Friday's game.

Suns vs. Nuggets Odds

Suns Odds +2.5
Nuggets Odds -2.5
Over/Under 226.5
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Our journey into the conference semifinals begins on Saturday as the Denver Nuggets host the Phoenix Suns for Game 1. This is set up to be the most competitive and compelling series this round.

Nikola Jokic, the reigning two-time MVP, has led the Nuggets to a dominating season. Despite questions of their depth and defense, they still emerged as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

The Suns, marred by injuries all season long, had a disappointing regular season according to their standards. Their midseason trade for Kevin Durant quickly got everyone back on the bandwagon, but they haven’t had much time on the court to build rapport with one another.

The Nuggets are 2.5-point favorites at home for this Game 1, but the Suns are favored for the series. Here’s a look at the odds, as well as a betting pick and prediction for Nuggets vs. Suns Game 1.

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Phoenix Suns

Despite a 4-1 series victory against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, there are a few concerning observations about the Suns. First, their stars are playing an incredible amount of minutes. Both Devin Booker and Kevin Durant exceeded the 40-minutes mark in all five games in the first round and 37-year old Chris Paul wasn’t that far behind. That likely isn’t sustainable for three injury-prone players.

That highlights another issue — Phoenix lacks depth on its roster, and it is obvious head coach Monty Williams doesn’t have much trust in the bench. Josh Okogie was the only non-starter getting consistent minutes in the rotation. Back-up point guard Cameron Payne came back later in the series, but only played three minutes in Game 5. His presence should really help with the backcourt.

Finally, despite having three dominant stars, the Suns didn’t appear to be in sync on offense until later in the series. Granted, Durant has only played 13 games in a Suns uniform, and they are figuring it out as they go. Booker erupted in this series with an amazing individual performance, averaging 37.2 points per game. However, it is more concerning that their defense was so poor against the Clippers without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. This will not cut it against a much better Nuggets offense.

The Suns were not a strong road team this season. Even filtering out games that Booker and Paul both played, they were a mediocre 11-9 straight up and 10-9-1 ATS on the road, per the Sports Data Query Language at Gimme the Dog.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets have been dominant at home. Including the playoffs, the Nuggets are 37-7 straight up and 27-16-1 ATS at home this season. Both teams won their respective games at home, splitting the season matchup 2-2. Three of the four games were missing key players, so those results don’t hold much weight.

The one game where both teams were healthy was their matchup on Christmas Day where the Nuggets won 128-125 in the overtime. In that lone matchup between Jokic and Deandre Ayton, Jokic scored 41 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished 15 assists. Jokic presents a huge matchup problem for Ayton and the Suns. It will be interesting to see how this matchup plays out as I anticipate Jokic will exploit this matchup and force double-teams from the Suns.

The Nuggets’ defense still presents a question mark. The Nuggets will have a hard time containing Booker and Durant. Therefore, they will have to fight fire with fire and count on their dynamic offense to put pressure on the middling Suns defense.

Two years ago, the Suns swept the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. The Nuggets have a better team this time around, and I like them to come out strong early and exact some revenge for the embarrassing elimination.

Suns-Nuggets Pick

I think the Nuggets’ excellence at home will be too much for the Suns. The Suns are still trying to figure things out and develop chemistry, and fortunately had an easy first round matchup to skate by. However, the Nuggets are a step up in class, and I think the Suns defense will be in for a shock in Game 1. I make this line -4 in favor of the Nuggets and I would play them up to -3.

In that same vein, I find it terribly hard to believe that the Nuggets are underdogs in this series. With the excessive minutes for the Suns’ stars, lack of chemistry, no home-court advantage and lack of depth, I find plenty of value in the Nuggets to win the series at plus-money.

Pick: Nuggets -2.5 — Up to -3

Pick: Nuggets Win Series (+116)