Denver Old Style Has Them Winning Again
Having won a franchise-best 57 games, but still being a postseason failure, Denver jettisoned head coach George Karl and overhauled its roster.
New coach Brian Shaw talked about improved half court execution which would help them come playoff time and as he put it, “I want to plant the seed” in terms of altering the mentality.
With a different roster makeup, early season injuries and a feeling out process, the Nuggets were shockingly bad and sat at 14-17 the evening of the first day of the New Year. They were bailed out by an out of nowhere seven-game winning streak in late November that leaked into the following month, which even caught most NBA basketball handicappers off guard.
Even with a different makeup of players, like a racehorse, the Nuggets are at their best when they run and they have won five of seven going back to uptempo.
For those making NBA picks, Denver is easy to understand. When the Nuggets score under 100 points, they are 3-13 and 3-12-1 ATS. When they break into triple digits, Shaw’s squad is 17-6 and 15-8 ATS.
Two keys for Denver are do-everything guard Ty Lawson, who is one of four players in the NBA to score at least 18 points a game and average eight dimes. Also, the Nuggets are 10-1 SU when bench sparkplug Nate Robinson scores 15 or more points.
Phoenix Suns Crushing Expectations
Coming into the new season, the projected win total for the Suns was either 20 or 21 at most sportsbooks and here the Suns are at 22-17, having already destroyed the anticipated number and they have been one of the best bets in the Association all year at 25-13-1 ATS. This has been accomplished with the second-least experienced in the NBA.
Give all the credit to first-year coach Jeff Hornacek, who has given his young players the confidence and game plans to compete. If you watch the Suns, they play mostly fearlessly, almost ignorant of the expectations of so-called experts.
Hornacek also assembled a very good staff of assistants and where this is shows up is in the play of rookie Miles Plumlee, the Morris twins formerly of Kansas and veteran Channing Frye. Each frontcourt player has a distinct role and is expected to carry this out nightly and collectively they are not asked to do something they are not capable of, which is very wise.
But where the Suns shine is in the backcourt and though rougher days might lie ahead, for now the job is getting done.
The pairing of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe made no sense when the season started, but almost immediately they worked together like they had played together since children. With Bledsoe injured, Dragic is handling the ball more and defensively taking more of a beating, being involved in more pick and roll defense as the point guard, but he’s a tough energy player with a sweet stroke.
Gerald Green and newly reacquired Leandro Barbosa will have to pick up the slack for a club that is like Denver is fantastic when reaching triple digits. Phoenix is 19-7 SU and ATS when reaching 100 points.
The NBA odds had Phoenix beginning as a one-point home favorite with a supersized total of 219.5. It is worth noting the Denver is 4-16 ATS in away outings after scoring 55 points or more in the first half of two straight games.
The large total could be correct with the Nuggets 8-1 OVER this month and the Suns 11-2 OVER at home versus opponents who make six or more 3-point shots a game on the season.
Denver is off a home loss to Cleveland Friday and will be idle until Thursday where they have two arduous affairs, one at Portland and home two days later against Indiana at altitude.
Phoenix is in the midst of a four-game homestand at Planet Orange, with the Pacers and Washington visiting in the coming days.
Head to Head
Phoenix has won and covered both meetings this season, yet is 3-5 SU and ATS the past three seasons and .500 against (2-2) this Northwest Division foe.
Maybe the Suns lack of experience is catching up with them in dropping five of seven, but knowing Indiana is coming to town next, I expect Phoenix to play with more urgency and win by five.
NBA Pick – Phoenix by 5 points