Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets NBA Playoffs Game 1 Picks: The MPJ Factor

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Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets NBA Playoffs Game 1 Picks: The MPJ Factor
Michael Porter Jr. #1 of the Denver Nuggets. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/AFP

This Saturday the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets open what should be one of the most intriguing first round series. Here’s a complete preview for Game 1, including updated betting odds and NBA picks.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets

Saturday, May 22, 2021 – 10:30 PM EDT at Ball Arena

The Trail Blazers (42-30 SU, 38-34 ATS) finished the regular season with six wins in their last seven games to secure the sixth seed in the West while the Denver Nuggets (47-25, 34-38 ATS) finished in third place and they've won three of their last four games. Denver will be without their star point guard Jamal Murray (plus-2.7 Offensive Box Plus/Minus) because of a torn ACL in his left knee while Will Barton (right hamstring) and PJ Dozier (left groin soreness) are questionable.

The Nuggets still opened as 1-point favorites at online sports betting sites like WagerWeb (visit our wager web review) and some of the best online betting sites like Bovada Sports Betting have them at a PK. Over at FiveThirtyEight, they have the Nuggets at -5. This leaves a 4 or 5-point gap between the projections and the actual NBA odds. We need at least two points between the projections and the lines before we lay any serious wood. Here we are getting more than enough.

FiveThirtyEight gives the Nuggets a 69 percent chance to win. The equivalent moneyline is -223. For support, we turn to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin’s projections; he has the Nuggets at -3.34 using his Rating numbers, and at TBD using his eigenvector analysis. Is there some room to grab potential betting value with the Nuggets PK at Heritage Sports.

Dame Time or The MVP?

The Trail Blazers enter the playoffs almost completely healthy and they've peaked at the right time but the Nuggets went 16-6 straight up since losing Jamal Murray. Denver's success had a lot to do with Nikola Jokic (plus-9.2 Offensive Box Plus/Minus), who took it upon himself to carry the team with Murray out, making a strong case for the MVP award. Michael Porter Jr. (plus-3.9 Offensive Box Plus/Minus) also stepped up, proving that he can be a reliable second option and to me, he will be the difference-maker on Saturday. I just can't see Norman Powell or Carmelo Anthony stopping him. And don't forget about Aaron Gordon. His trade made this team much better and he can also be a matchup nightmare in this series.

I hate going against Damian Lillard in the playoffs but the Trail Blazers are just 1-8 ATS in their last nine games playing on three or more days rest and Nikola Jokic just had one of the best seasons in NBA history. This Nuggets team is very deep, even without Murray and possibly Will Barton (minus-0.8 Offensive Box Plus/Minus). While the Trail Blazers have enough offensive firepower to scare any team, they also have defensive flaws and I can't pass on the Nuggets at this price at Bookmaker Sportsbook.

NBA Pick: Nuggets -110 at Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review)

Nuggets -110
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.