2020 NBA Playoffs: Nuggets vs. Clippers odds, picks & predictions (Sept. 15)
Game 7. The greatest phrase in all of sports. After falling behind 3-1 in their opening round series to the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets looked like a three-legged horse running in the Kentucky Derby. And then miraculously they came back, forced a Game 7, and moved on to Round 2.
Battling one of the best teams in the league and presumably a bit of an emotional hangover, they proceeded to drop three of four to the Los Angeles Clippers, and have now, just as miraculously, battled back yet again to force a deciding Game 7.
Do the Nuggets have another miracle in them for Tuesday night?
Wed, September 16 2020, 1:05 AM
The Clippers have been plagued by inconsistency
With the closed-circuit environment of the NBA Bubble in Orlando, oddsmaking has not seen the kind of major fluctuations we typically see in a playoff series. Travel and home court are non-existent, game scheduling has a consistent cadence, and there have been no major injuries to either side. Nearly every game line has hovered around the Clippers -8.5 mark, but for Game 7 has been installed slightly lower: the Clippers are currently 7-point favorites.
Part of the dichotomy between a series knotted at 3-3 and a favorite of this magnitude is the unfortunate reality for Clippers fans that L.A. has been brilliant in spurts, but inconsistent when it comes to finishing games. For the second time in this series, the Clippers blew a 16-point lead in Game 6.
Jokic has been picking apart L.A.'s defense
The Clippers are the most efficient team remaining and have the greatest player on either roster in Kawhi Leonard which should bode well in a win-or-go-home situation, but it’s undeniable that the Clippers have no answer for Nuggets center, Nikola Jokic. "The Joker" had 34 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists in Game 6, and has gotten his (admittedly awkward-looking) shots off at will against anybody the Clippers assign to guard him.
Montrezl Harrell has been a defensive liability, and Doc Rivers needs to recognize which roster rotations give him the best opportunity to win by leaving Harrell on the bench more. Jamal Murray has also been a star for the Nuggets, but it will be interesting to see if Murray forces bad shots in the ultra-intense setting that is a Game 7.
The Clippers will win, but the Nuggets will cover the spread
The Clippers will win the deciding game because of the steady play of Kawhi Leonard, who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is capable of handling the moment, but the Nuggets look like the better play against the spread. The Nuggets have covered four of the last five games.
The Nuggets have a slightly lower turnover percentage this postseason than the Clippers and a slightly better free throw percentage as well. In close, high-intensity playoff games, taking care of the ball and making your free throws is often the difference between covering and not. Jokic and Murray have more potent third and fourth weapons surrounding them than Leonard and Paul George, and the Clippers have simply failed to prove they can be trusted right now in this matchup.