The Utah Jazz are trying to lock down the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Denver Nuggets have nothing to play for. Who will beat the NBA odds this Sunday?
Jason's 2015-16 record as of April 9: 32-35-1 ATS, 6-3-1 Total
The Utah Jazz are about as small-market as it gets. They're the only major professional team in the state – unless you include Real Salt Lake from the MLS, which you probably don't, or any of the big college teams, which you probably should. Hardly anyone has paid attention to the Jazz for nearly 15 years now, since the glory days of Karl Malone and John Stockton.
The memory hole isn't quite as deep for the Denver Nuggets. They had some good pub during the late Aughts, when Carmelo Anthony was still around – and George Karl, and Masai Ujiri. But it's all over now, baby blue; the Nugs are in Year Three of their ongoing rebuilding project, and they're 5-point home dogs on the NBA odds for Sunday's matchup (5:00 p.m. ET) with Utah. Who's up for some dinner theater? Anyone?
The Rebirth of Jazz
The Jazz (39-40 SU, 40-39 ATS) will definitely be motivated. They're in eighth place in the Western Conference, one game up on the Houston Rockets with three games left to go in the regular season. This “should” be Utah's spot given their plus-1.8 point differential, which ranks fifth in the West. And the Jazz are smoking hot at 10-5 SU and 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games.
There isn't much motivation for the Nuggets (33-47 SU, 41-37-2 ATS) in this contest, but unfortunately for our purposes, they have no incentive to tank, either. Denver has the option of swapping first-round picks this summer with the New York Knicks, courtesy of the 2011 Anthony trade. The Nugs appear to have folded their tents anyway at 2-5 SU and ATS in their last seven games.
Shut 'Em Down
Given the situation on the ground, perhaps we should be putting the Jazz in our NBA picks. But let's see what the scientists have to say first:
FiveThirtyEight (CARM-Elo): Denver –0.5
Basketball-Reference (SRS): Utah –1.15
Interesting. FiveThirtyEight is being a little more kind toward the Nuggets, but neither of these projections takes injuries into account (not yet that we know of), and swingman Danilo Gallinari (19.0 PER, +1.2 BPM) is out for the season with torn ligaments in his right ankle. It looks like forward Kenneth Faried (21.0 PER, +1.0 BPM) will be shut down for Denver's last two games, as well. Add forward Darrell Arthur (12.7 PER, –0.2 BPM) to the list of shutdown candidates while you're at it.
The Jazz, meanwhile, are at full capacity for Sunday's game – not including point guard Dante Exum, of course, but he hasn't played all year anyway. That settles it, then: We're recommending Utah for a reasonably healthy wager, and as always, may the sphere be with you.
Free NBA Pick: Utah -5
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline