When and where: October 20, 2018, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO, 9:00 PM ET
The Phoenix Suns started the season off on the right foot on Wednesday by turning back the visiting Dallas Mavericks. Now, it’s their turn to go on the road on Saturday and try their hand at upending an underrated Denver Nugget team coming off a win over the Los Angeles Clippers. It’ll be a weekend showdown between two of the Western Conference’s young and promising teams.
Which team will be the last one standing?
Will Deandre Ayton play?
Deandre Ayton, the Suns’ answer to Jokic, might not even be on the floor for Saturday’s game. The rookie center reportedly rolled his ankle at practice and is questionable to play. He’ll likely be a game time decision depending on how his ankle feels during warm-ups.
One thing is certain: It would be foolish for the Suns to rush their bright, young star back onto the court so early in the season. The Suns aren’t in any position to compete for a championship, and it would be a miracle if they even made the playoffs considering they were literally the worst team in the NBA a season ago. They are an ongoing renovation project and Ayton figures to play a big part in those plans.
His regular season debut was everything the team hoped it’d be. He finished 8-of-11 from the floor for 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Meanwhile, Booker had a team-high 35 points, four rebounds and seven assists.
Nuggets perimeter defense to be tested
The Nuggets came within a game of securing a playoff spot last season, which is proof of how important each individual game in a long NBA season can be. Games like the one on Saturday against the Suns, where the Nuggets are favored, are vital to their postseason chances.
Playing against the Suns comes with the challenge of defending the perimeter, which is something the Dallas Mavericks failed to do. Led by Booker, the Suns were raining three-pointers at a 55-percent rate. Giving up a plethora of three-pointers at that percentage is a quick and easy way to get buried at home.
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) October 19, 2018
The Nuggets will have the tough task of contesting shots from beyond the arc and forcing the Suns into a mid-range game. Defending the perimeter against the Suns will be a nice warm-up with the sharpshooting Golden State Warriors on tap for a visit on Sunday.
Center Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists against the Clippers on Wednesday. Gary Harris, who will be tasked with defending Booker, was right behind him with 20 points, three rebounds and two assists.
- Nuggets are 4-1 ATS in last 5 games against teams in the NBA Pacific
- Nuggets are 4-1 ATS in last 5 games played on a Saturday
- Nuggets are 4-1 ATS in last 5 games against a team with a win percentage above .600
- Suns are 1-4 ATS in last 5 head-to-head games played in Denver
- Suns are 1-8 ATS in last 9 head-to-head meetings
- Suns are 3-11 ATS in last 14 games after an ATS win
- Suns are 0-6 ATS in last 6 games coming off 2 days’ rest
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The safe bet is the Suns playing it safe with Ayton here and resting him. Even if he does appear in the starting line-up, his minutes will likely be limited to ensure his ankle has ample recovery time. That means it’ll be a long night in the paint for the Suns defense in trying to slow down Jokic. The Nuggets center has steadily improved every year, and this could officially be his breakout season.
His improvement in defending the pick-and-roll was particularly on display in the Nuggets’ win over the Clippers. Those abilities should really be put to the test against a Suns team that loves to call plays to free up shooters from long range. There is a lot to like about the direction the Suns are headed, but they are coming up against a more complete team.
The hot three-point stroke won’t be falling at 55 percent on the road, and the Nuggets will punish them for the misses on the other end. While the Nuggets didn’t make the playoffs last season, they were one of the better home teams in the league. They don’t lose at the Pepsi Center often.
Prediction: Denver Nuggets (-10)
Full-Game Total Pick
Neither one of these teams are defensive juggernauts, and the over has won out six times in the last seven head-to-head meetings. Don’t sleep on the presence of Trevor Ariza adding to the offensive efficiency for the Suns. He’s mostly known for his defensive abilities, but he was able to knock down five three-pointers against the Mavericks. While I don’t expect the Suns to win the game, I do envision Booker and Ariza hitting big shots to keep things interesting. Take the over in this game.
Prediction: Over (224)
Full-Game Prop Bet
If these two teams are going to go over the 224-point total, they’ll have to put up some serious offense in the first half. Granted, the Nuggets could run away with the game early, but I do see the Suns putting up a fight on offense. There is simply too much three-point firepower on their roster to count them out for at least another 100-plus point performance. They’ll do enough to cover the half-time over prop bet this one.
Prediction: Suns total first half points (Over 54)