Sweet Spots of the Week in NBA: Nuggets' Trend Goes in Reverse

Malone Nuggets

Jay Pryce

Sunday, January 28, 2018 3:39 PM GMT

Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018 3:39 PM GMT

Our top handicapping angles for the upcoming NBA week feature the Nuggets' surprising "under" trend, the Kings against poor turnover teams, the Lakers without Lonzo Ball, and the Cavaliers against the spread with LeBron James coming off a cold shooting night.

NBA: Sweet Spots Of The WeekMonday, Jan. 29: Celtics vs. Nuggets

In 2015, Michael Malone’s first year in charge of the Nuggets, the "over" cashed 61.5 percent of the time at Pepsi Center. In 2016, it hit 59.0 percent of the time. The building, at altitude and housing a historically run-and-gun franchise, appeared prime to keep the wager cashing in 2017. Wrong. This season it's at a 9-16 clip.

What’s the cause for the shift? Denver owns a surprisingly good defense, yielding 105.5 points per game (11th in the NBA). Even outside of Pepsi Center, the unit flourishes against poor shooting teams. Defending against opponents hitting less than the 46.0 percent from the floor (NBA average) on the year, the Nuggets allow 102.7 points per game. The "under" is 24-9 in this situation, a 205.7 combined score failing to surpass a 212.2 average total.

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The Celtics, holding the top spot in the Eastern Conference, enter with the No. 2 scoring defense in the NBA behind the Spurs. The offense is so-so, ranking 25th with a 44.7-percent shooting rate. Defense will dominate on both ends of the court, so lean "under" all the way with your NBA picks.

Tuesday, Jan. 30: Kings vs. Pelicans

New Orleans will be without DeMarcus Cousins for the rest of the season after the all-star sustained a torn Achilles' tendon in Friday’s 115-113 win over Houston. Adjusting to Boogie’s injury, though, isn’t the main reason to like taking the points with the Kings here.

Sacramento is at its best against opponents poor in the turnover department. Versus teams giving the ball away more than 14.1 times per game (NBA average) and also forcing fewer, the Kings are 7-4 SU and 8-2-1 ATS. Half of their 15 wins for the season have come in this 11-game scenario. Sacramento, one of the worst shooting teams in the league, needs every possession it can take to stay competitive. They retain plenty under these circumstances.

Wednesday, Jan. 31: Lakers vs. Magic

Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball is expected to miss his third straight week of action with a minor MCL sprain. The rookie ranks eighth in the NBA with 7.1 assists per game. One would expect L.A.’s offense to struggle in his absence, but it’s actually the defense taking a turn for the worse.

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The Ball-less player rotations and personnel sets are porous. The Lakers yield 115.5 points per game on 48.8-percent opponent shooting in 12 contests with Ball on the bench. In the lineup, the numbers are a more respectable 107.8 on 44.6 from the field. Offensively, the numbers are roughly the same.

Expect the Magic to score above the century mark, which should help their chances significantly to win and cover based on the pending NBA odds. They are 0-10 SU and ATS when failing to score 100 points at Amway Center in 2017, and 8-3 SU and 7-4 ATS when surpassing the threshold.

Wednesday, Jan. 30: Cavaliers vs. Heat

Cleveland is historically bad at this point in the season against the spread, going 12-33-2 as of Sunday. It is failing to beat the number (-5) by 5.03 points per game. One has to go back to the 2011 Hornets to find a team underachieving in the market as badly at this point in the season. Charlotte went 16-30-1 ATS, missing an 8.0 average line by 5.1 points per game through its first 47 played.

Where Cleveland is at its worst in the market is when LeBron James is coming off a cold shooting night. When the King hits less than 50 percent from the floor in his prior effort, the team is 1-10 ATS the next time out, failing to top a -4.7 average line by 9.7 points per game. Monitor James’ offensive performance against the Pistons the night before. It also is ominous that James often struggles from the field on no rest. Since 2016, he has shot less than 50 percent on the second night of back-to-back contests in nine of 17 attempts.

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