Daniel Wettstein previews Game 3 between the Nuggets and Jazz and shares his best bets, with the Playoff series currently tied 1-1.
Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz Game 3 Preview
On paper if all you see is a combined 56 points, 7 3-pointers, 17 rebounds, and 6 assists between Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. with 30 bench points, you would rightly assume the game was at least competitive, regardless of opponent. Well that’s only if you don’t have a team shoot historically well from every level of the floor. In Game 2 the Utah Jazz as a team, in non-garbage time minutes did this:
- 77.3% shooting around the rim
- 57.1% shooting from beyond the arc
- 73.2 effective field-goal %
- 20 3-pointers made
- 6 turnovers
Emmanuel Mudiay was the only Jazz regular that had a negative +/- at -4. Four out of five starters had at least a +19 plus/minus. Until the mid-3rd quarter, they did this against a high effort Denver D that kept pressing while MPJ drained 3’s. Then the dam broke and Utah poured it on until both teams pulled their starters for at least the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter.
This is where I would like to pick up and stand by my assertion of a Nuggets series victory in 5. In that last 5 minutes, the Nuggets showed their edge in depth that will need to be exploited in Game 3 as the Jazz will add Michael Conley to the starting lineup after his return from time-off to welcome his son into the world.
In what would be considered garbage time, Bol Bol and his co-horts Troy Daniels, Tyler Cook, and Kieter Bates-Diop all had a +/- of at least +4 in at least 4 minutes of play. Both of these starting units are so closely matched when at full strength, it will be the bench that closes out the quarters the best that will win this series. The Utah counter in these waning moments all had a +/- no better than -7.
Why it took garbage time in a game way too far out of reach for the likes of Bol Bol to log minutes is beyond me. I get “load management” and all, but for him to not have logged a single second of time on the hard-wood before the 4th-quarter of this game is beyond me. I don’t question much of what Coach Malone and the Nuggets do as they always seem to pull the right string at the right moment, but this is one of those rare instances.
When in the playoffs, everything you held onto in the regular season is moot at best. It’s a whole new beast as I pointed out in my preview of Game 2 and was emphasized by MPJ. I truly do not see any reason why Milsap and Bol cannot be switched out and allow him to run with the big boys to counter the high-screens Rudy Gobert likes to set and play off of. You have Jokic move up to counter the screens as you did in Game 2, while Bol stays in the paint to shut down the easy buckets that Joker did in Game 1. But I digress, we don’t put our money on hypotheticals, at least not if you want to keep it.
So, we will move on to reality, which we all know Coach Malone and his crew are adept at working in. Look for more Bol in game 3 as his defensive efficiency and ability to facilitate like a PG at 7’ will help the Nuggets close out quarters with a stronger defensive performance and more efficient offensive uptick than they got in either of the first 2 games. But do not expect any large minute uptick, he will be used as a sort of specialist, giving the starters a breather without losing to much in the talent margin on the court.
The Utah Jazz as well as every other team in the NBA will never be that efficient ever again in all likelihood. Jamal Murray will provide more than 14 points on 6-13 shooting. And the Nuggets will not have every one of their starters and regular bench players have a -7 plus/minus or worse. They had 4 of 5 starters with a -13 or worse. Their “most efficient” starter was Michael Porter Jr. at -7.
Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz Game 3 Picks
By simple laws of averages, you should expect a regression to the mean by the Jazz and a progression to the mean by the Nuggets. Which should lend itself to much more of what we all expected, a hotly contested series with the Nuggets bench proving the deciding factor. The one hidden positive to the thrashing the Nuggets took on Wednesday was how much it moved the lines to make betting on the Nuggets much more profitable as you can see in this money line from DraftKings Sportsbook:
The best line you could find before the first 2 games was -180. DraftKings also has a good Game Parlay:
FOXBet comes through with a good line on the spread of -1.5 at -105:
And FanDuel even has a nice line on Win Margin:
These last 2 lines lend themselves to my continued belief Game 2 was an outlier. These teams are both way to talented to be getting blown out by the other. Add in the long-time heated Rocky Mountain Rivalry and the pride of these 2 squads will not allow them to mail it in. I see this as the wakeup call the Nuggets needed to let their youth be admonished into the shadows. While their battle tested core that took 2 series to game 7 a year ago before Logo-Lillard sent them home in the ‘18/’19 playoffs takes over. Joker and Murray are on a mission to show the Mile-High Basketball process is the best way to create a Super-Team.
Joker’s transformation alone during the hiatus should be all you need to see to know how serious they are taking this playoff bubble. Look for that to propel them to a Game 3 victory that springboards them to that series win.
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