THE All-Star break is almost here, but there’s still plenty of basketball on offer before teams head off for a break.
Let’s take a look at today’s best action from our expert analyst below:
Denver Nuggets @ Golden State Warriors
THE Golden State Warriors play host to the Denver Nuggets in what will be both sides last game before the All Star Break.
The Warriors will look to sign off with a win after dropping three of their last four games. Still holding the second-best record in the NBA, Golden State have impressed this season and over-performed expectations from their preseason ratings.
With Klay Thompson’s successful return from a significant absence, the Dubs are making a strong push towards playoffs but their ceiling is only as high as Steph Curry can push them. The All Star Break comes at a much-needed time for GSW who will be eager to have Draymond Green return to the side to steady the ship.
His pairing with Steph Curry is so important to their success with their two-man game and Draymond’s defensive impact is absolutely pivotal to their success.
Denver, on the other hand, have been a very tough team to understand this season. With Jamal Murray still without a return date we are witnessing another incredible season from big man Nikola Jokic.
The Serb is arguably having a better season than his MVP campaign last year. He impacts the game unlike most others and without him, this team is nothing more than a lottery side.
Aaron Gordon and Will Barton play the roles of second and third option on this team and despite their inconsistency have done a reasonable job supporting Jokic.
The Nuggets have a very weak schedule coming out of the All Star break which makes this a fantastic opportunity to pit themselves against a contender and make a strong push out of the break to solidify their playoff position and in-turn avoid the play-in scenario.
The last time these two sides met, it was the Nuggets that played spoiler, winning outright as an eight-point underdog. Denver took a 24 point lead into halftime and held on through clutch moments to squeak a win. They were able to restrict the Warriors from three and negate easy possessions off turnovers in that game, holding an eight-point differential in points off turnovers.
Doing so again is absolutely key to them being in this contest given how difficult the Warriors can be when allowing them extra possessions and the opportunity to run off live turnovers.
Mike Malone’s side have been extremely effective at attacking and scoring at the rim, ranking 5th in frequency and converting opportunities at a near 70% clip. This is a key area for Denver to succeed in this matchup, with the Warriors ranking 28th in the league at points allowed at the rim with opponents scoring at the tune of 70% on the season.
It’s not secret that the key to the Warriors success comes in the form of their three point scoring. GSW attempt the second most threes per game and are shooting a respectable 36.5%.
To say this is highly correlated to their success is an understatement. While they are 42-16 on the season, when opponents hold the Warriors to less than their season averages from deep they are much closer to a .500 side. The Nuggets have the ability to find an advantage in this area and rank sixth in opponent three-point scoring allowed (34%).
Both teams run a highly efficient offence and rating in the leagues top ten sides for effective field goal percentage. The difference comes when evaluating the difficulty of shots taken and regression to mean.
Denver hold the most efficient scoring in the league but when compared to league average scoring from each location they rate fifth. This tells us that their offence is performing relative to the shots they are creating and is in fact sustainable. On the other hand, Golden State rank 12th in effective field goal percentage but drop to 22nd in the league for shot location efficiency.
A lot of this is tied to their scorers being elite at making difficult shots but it also proves that regression to the mean is to be expected and explains the random games of poor offensive efficiency that the Warriors are capable of.
Denver allow the least amount of second chance points in the league and the Warriors are not a potent offensive rebounding unit so the only other area of concern for the Nuggets is points off turnovers.
The Warriors thrive in transition opportunities off steals scoring 14.5 points per game in this area. While Denver hasn’t been great at looking after the basketball, they certainly aren’t a liability in this area either – allowing 11.5 points per game off turnovers and ranking as a top-tier team in transition defence.
The matchup (at least on paper) between these two sides is a lot closer than you might think and Denver has every opportunity to cover and potentially sneak a win on the road, taking some much needed momentum into the break.
The Nuggets only need to hold the Warriors to slightly below their three-point scoring average to have real shot at this but on the other hand, there isn’t a world where anyone can contain Jokic. If we get some handy contributions from Gordon and Barton the Nuggets will be very lively in this matchup.
Markets opened with the Warriors -4.5 and we have seen this move out to -5.5 overnight before getting some buy back. I think we are getting an inflated price on the Dubs in a game that should stay within a possession down the stretch.
Give me the Nuggets to cover on the road.
Our best bet: Denver Nuggets +5.0 $1.92 at PlayUp