NBA Playoffs: Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns series preview

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Opening Price (via DraftKings): Phoenix Suns (-125) Denver Nuggets (+105)

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When Phoenix acquired Kevin Durant at the trade deadline the Suns vaulted to the role of favorite to win the Western Conference. The move kicked Denver down the board despite it having the best record and the top seed in the West. Now, the two teams meet in the conference semifinals, where the Nuggets find themselves as underdogs.

It is not a shock that the market would make Phoenix the favorite here, but the Suns are not this perfect team most believe them to be. Many in Denver have been shouting about the disrespect the Nuggets have faced since the Durant acquisition, and those who believe that may be right when it comes to this series.

Concerns for Phoenix

The Suns might have eliminated the Clippers in five games, but there was plenty to be worried about for the conference favorite coming out of that series. The first concerns should be their lack of depth. 

Kevin Durant was brilliant in averaging 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game in the series, but he was forced to play 44.0 minutes per game. Devin Booker had to play 43.2 minutes a night as well. Those two are brilliant players, but their massive workloads speak to the few effective lineups Phoenix has outside of its main starting group. The Suns’ most used lineup in the series against the Clippers was +41 in 94 minutes, but the rest of the lineups were -9 combined.

Durant and Booker are two players who dealt with soft tissue injuries this season that caused them to miss time, and massive workloads like these due to ineffective bench lineups are a problem.

Phoenix also showed a lack of defensive production against Los Angeles as well.

For the series the Clippers averaged 117.6 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time. That is the fourth worst non-garbage time defensive rating in the first round for the Suns. In two of the three games without Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles put up offensive ratings of over 120.4 and covered both games. If Phoenix struggled to defend a team without its two best players, then it is likely that they will struggle to defend a team which finished fifth in non-garbage time offensive rating in the regular season.

Betting Analysis

Denver came into this postseason as an undervalued team. It was only -500 to win its series with Minnesota, but ended it in five games with covers in three of the five contests. It would seem that the market is sleeping on the Nuggets once more.

Phoenix will not be stopped by Denver’s defense by any means, but there is little reason to believe that the Suns will have an answer for the Nuggets’ own offense. Phoenix will also need Durant and Booker to play more than 40 minutes per game once again, and in a series played mostly in altitude, that could work against the road team here.

The first series price on the market was Phoenix -125 and since then we’ve seen this climb to as high as -145 at some shops. It is worth it to make a wager on Denver to win the series, and also to look at the Nuggets with some of the series spreads. DraftKings has Denver +1.5 games at -150 which is a price that should be higher than what it is.

Bet Recommendation: Nuggets +1.5 games (-150)