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It’s a Western Conference showdown between the streaking Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies at the FedExForum in Tennessee in the first game for both after the All-Star Game. This is the time where the playoff race truly begins as teams will be vying for postseason play from here until May. The Nuggets are coming off a 113-103 victory over Indiana on the road while the Grizzlies beat Washington 127-112 on Wednesday night to get the second half of their season started on the right track. These two teams have not played each other yet this year with the last match up going to Memphis on January 28th of last year in a game they won 104-96.
Denver Goes for Five
Although Denver has faced a litany of injuries lately with a number of players out, the Nuggets have won four straight, which has helped propel them into fifth place in the Western Conference. They are 21-15 on the year and are two and half games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for fourth place in the West. On that note, hopefully they can get the services of their injured players back soon including Paul Milsap, Gary Harris, JaMychal Green, and Facundo Campazzo. Milsap, Green, and Campazzo are currently listed as questionable for Friday’s contest, but Harris is out indefinitely. Despite their absence, Denver is shooting 48.8% from the floor, second-best in the league, and are fourth overall in points per game at 115.9.
Despite the injuries to several of their role players, the mainstays for the Nuggets are hot and continue to produce big time. Perhaps most important is the fact that Jamal Murray, who had a god awful start to the season statistically, is getting better as the season progresses. In the last ten games, Murray is averaging 29.5 points per contest on 57.4% shooting from the field and 50.4% from downtown. Those look like the kind of numbers Murray was putting up in the playoff bubble when he was one of the best players in the postseason. Michael Porter Jr. is another significant factor to the Nuggets’ winning ways lately, putting up a double-double in four of his last five games. Of course, their biggest star, Nikola Jokic, is averaging incredible numbers at 27.1 points, 11 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game.
Memphis Starts Second Half With A Win
One good way to come out of the All-Star Break is with a blowout 127-112 win over the streaking Washington Wizards. They held the Wizards to only 40% shooting and 31% from three, but more impressive is how they contained Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook to a combined 41 points. Star point guard Ja Morant came up with a double-double logging 21 points and ten assists to go along with six rebounds on 50% shooting. Jonas Valanciunas had a monster game Wednesday night by putting up a game-high 29 points, snagging 20 rebounds, and swatting away four shots.
Overall, the Grizzlies are a strong defensive team, something they will need to rely on against a surging Denver team that hasn’t scored less than 113 points during their winning streak. Memphis holds opponents to 110.8 points a game, good for eighth-best in the NBA, as well as lead the league in steals at 9.9 per contest. On offense, the Grizzlies average 110.2 points a game while dishing out 27.2 dimes, good for third-best in the league. Morant leads the team in scoring and assists with 19.8 points and 7.8 assists per contest while second-leading scorer Valanciunas chips in 16 points and 11.8 rebounds. Dillon Brooks and Kyle Anderson chip in 15.7 and 13.4 points respectively. The Grizzlies have done well lately against the spread, winning four in a row ATS and five of their last six.
-Memphis is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games overall.
-Memphis is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 home games.
-Memphis is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games playing on 1 day of rest.
-Denver is 3-9 ATS in their last 12 Friday games.
-Denver is 3-6 ATS in their last 9 games played on 3 days or more of rest.
The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Denver is playing great lately as evidenced by their four-game winning streak and seven of their last ten, but Memphis has played well lately too, winning three of four with their only loss by one point to Milwaukee. Jokic is the best player in this game and is having a phenomenal season, but Denver can get sluggish after layoffs such as how they came into this season. Memphis is fresh off a victory and their defense is good enough to give Jokic and Murray fits, plus it does not appear like a lot of Denver’s supporting cast is going to be available. I think Valanciunas does a decent job on Jokic in the paint, but it will be Morant and the supporting cast that makes this a game. Memphis needs every win they can get to get themselves into the playoff picture. Take Memphis and the points.
Want another opinion on this pick?
Full-Game Total Pick
It is hard to believe Denver not getting their points in this game, but I see Memphis controlling the tempo more than the other way around. In previous games, the Nuggets have put up no less than 113 points, however, they have also played high scoring offenses such as Milwaukee and Chicago. Memphis is playing better defense than both of those teams this season and they’re going to make things a bit tough on offense for Denver. Considering the Nuggets started this season slow, I think they’ll be rusty after eight days without a game and will be sloppy on offense. Memphis will keep Denver at bay offensively on Friday night. Take the under.