Following an 11-game smorgasbord of a schedule on Sunday, the NBA has just 3 games on Monday night’s docket. We have a tank-fest between the Hawks and Hornets, an interesting interconference tilt between the Raptors and Jazz in Utah, and a showdown in Denver between two of the league’s best teams. The Milwaukee Bucks, who will be shorthanded again tonight with Giannis Antetokounmpo still sidelined, will visit the Nuggets in the final game of the night.
Neither team comes into this game in the best form. The Nuggets narrowly squeaked by a bad Charlotte team last week before their disappointing loss in Cleveland on Saturday. Those are teams the Nuggets should be dominating, yet Denver hasn’t looked quite right over the past few games. Perhaps a return home to the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center will help get them back on track.
The Bucks fell in a high-scoring affair in Phoenix last night without the Greek Freak. This marks the first time Milwaukee has lost back-to-back games all year, which goes to show how incredible their run has been to this point. The Bucks are still 53-11 and in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but this is the first real adversity they have faced all year long.
MyBookie has the Bucks at 5.5-point underdogs on Monday night in the Mile High City in a game with an over/under of 222.5 points.
Giannis Antetokounmpo to miss another game with minor knee injury sustained on Friday vs. LAL
Bucks lost 140-131 in Phoenix on Sunday
Nuggets return home after 104-102 loss in Cleveland on Saturday
Middleton, Bledsoe Take Center Stage
NBA MVP candidate Antetokounmpo has missed a handful of games so far this season. Whenever he does, it seems as though Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe wind up going off. That was the case yesterday in Phoenix. Middleton wound up piling up a team-high 39 points on efficient 13-for-26 shooting in the losing effort, while Bledsoe finished with 28 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds.
The Bucks also got a nice effort out of second-year man Donte DiVincenzo off the bench. He scored 16 points while contributing 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in 29 minutes of work. The Bucks’ defense was to blame for Sunday’s loss, as they let the Suns put 47 points on the board in the first quarter alone. Milwaukee was able to close the gap and make the final score look a little more respectable, but the game was essentially over after Phoenix got out to a 19-point lead after the first quarter.
Obviously, Milwaukee can’t afford a similar effort tonight in Denver against a superior opponent. You won’t often see a team shoot nearly 54 percent from the field and score 131 points and lose, but that’s exactly what the Bucks managed to accomplish on Sunday.
The Nuggets enter Monday’s game having lost 3 of their last 5 overall. Denver is still nipping at the heels of the Clippers in pursuit of the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, though. The Nuggets are a game behind the Clippers after LA fell to the Lakers on Sunday afternoon. However, the Nuggets are also just a game ahead of the Jazz for the No. 3 seed and top spot in the Northwest Division, so there is plenty still left to play for.
Denver is at their best when their best player, Nikola Jokic, is looking to assert himself offensively. That wasn’t the case in Cleveland, as Jokic finished with just 8 points on 4-for-11 shooting from the field. He scored just 14 points in the previous game against Charlotte, and 16 3 games ago in Denver’s shocking home loss at the hands of a miserable Warriors team.
It’s curious considering Jokic had put a triple-double on the board in the Nuggets’ stirring triumph over Toronto back on March 1. It seems as though Jokic just goes through some personal mini-slumps throughout the season. I expect him to snap out of it at some point, but the Nuggets are just a lot less formidable whenever he’s enduring one of his rough patches.
He’s in a bit of a tough spot tonight, as Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez has been arguably the league’s stingiest defensive center this season. The Bucks’ defense in general struggles without Giannis, though, as we saw yesterday. If the Nuggets are going to get back into the win column tonight, they’re going to need the aggressive version of Jokic to show up.
Bucks vs Nuggets Pick
I do think that version of Jokic shows himself tonight. Denver has always been a much better home team than road team. Their road record this season has been better than in previous years, but they’re still a whole lot more formidable on their home floor. The Bucks could also be a bit road weary after playing on Sunday. This is also the Bucks’ third game in four nights.
I like Denver in this one. The spread is a bit small when you take everything into account. Playing the second half of a back-to-back is tough on any team, but it’s particularly difficult when you have to go into Denver and deal with the altitude. The Nuggets have been using that to their advantage for years, and I think they’ll be focused with an opponent as good as the Bucks coming to town tonight.
Bet on the Nuggets to cover the 5.5-point spread. I could see the line continuing to trend in Denver’s direction as the day progresses, so get in on this line while it still has value.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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