- Nuggets could be without 3 starters with Murray (doubtful), Harris and Millsap (both questionable) all iffy due to injuries
- Warriors will get Damion Lee back after he missed the last 2 games due to his contract status
- This will be the first meeting of the season between the teams
|Nuggets||-4.5 (-110)||-185||Over 212 (-110)|
|Warriors||+4.5 (-110)||+155||Under 212 (-110)|
Last season, the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets had to duke it out all season long for supremacy in the Western Conference. The Warriors ultimately won the battle, but this season is a vastly different story.
While Denver is once again right back near the top of the conference, the Warriors are alone in the cellar. Golden State is just 9-33 on the year and 6.5 games back of the Pelicans and Kings for the worst record in the West. The Dubs are also a half-game worse than the Hawks for the worst record in the entire league. It’s been quite the fall from grace for the franchise that has been the NBA’s marquee draw over the past half-decade.
The line for Thursday’s matchup in San Francisco has shifted quite a bit. The Nuggets opened as 7-point favorites, but the spread has shrunk all the way to Denver -4.5 at MyBookie as of this writing. We know the Warriors are down key cogs in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but the Nuggets could also be without 3 starters of their own. This is also the second night of a back-to-back for Denver, while the Warriors haven’t played since Tuesday.
Golden State’s Lost Season
The Warriors believe Curry will return at some point this season, but there is no real reason to rush his return. The team isn’t going to come close to qualifying for the postseason, so they might as well hold the franchise centerpiece on the sidelines and make sure he’s fully healthy before coming back from his hand injury. Thompson likely won’t play at all after tearing his ACL in the NBA Finals last June.
In the meantime, the Warriors’ brass can use the season’s remaining games to get a look at candidates to fill out next season’s roster. Time will tell what happens with D’Angelo Russell, but without Curry and Thompson, Russell has taken the reins of the offense.
Whether Russell will be on the floor next to Curry and Thompson next season obviously remains to be seen. While wins have been tough to come by, Steve Kerr has to be pleased with what he has seen out of some of the roster’s young players. Contributors like Damion Lee, Omari Spellman, Ky Bowman and Eric Paschall have all shown flashes of upside amid the team’s struggles. Draymond Green is still Draymond Green.
The Warriors’ defense hasn’t been as porous as it was earlier in the season, but it’s still far from a strong suit. Golden State plays hard, but they’re still just 21st in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing 109.2 points per 100 possessions.
The offense, though, has quietly been even worse. Russell is a passable player, but if he’s your No. 1 offensive option you’re probably going to struggle. That’s exactly what has happened. The Warriors rank second-to-last in offensive rating, scoring just 101.2 points per 100 possessions. Only Trae Young and the Hawks have been worse in that department.
The Warriors won’t be shedding tears for other teams when it comes to injuries, but the Nuggets are coming into this game a bit banged up. Jamal Murray injured his ankle in last night’s win over the Hornets, and he is very unlikely to play in this one. Gary Harris and Paul Millsap, who missed last night’s game, are officially questionable to suit up tonight.
Monte Morris will presumably slide into Murray’s vacated starting spot if Murray misses this game, while Michael Porter Jr. may be called upon to play a bigger role if Harris, Millsap or both remain sidelined. Porter saved Denver last night, contributing 19 points and 8 rebounds in 28 minutes of action off the bench.
The second-year forward’s playing time has been spotty all season long, but if he keeps playing this way it’s going to be incredibly difficult for Mike Malone to keep him out of the rotation. The 21-year-old is averaging 19.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and better than a block per 36 minutes so far this season. For good measure, he has shot 54 percent from the field and better than 37 percent from downtown.
Even against a miserable Warriors team, Nikola Jokic will need help offensively. Will Barton can provide a boost, but no other healthy player on the roster is capable of doing what Porter can do on that side of the floor.
Denver ranks a very respectable 10th in defensive efficiency so far this season, while they’re tied for 11th in offensive efficiency. Those numbers are comparable to last season’s marks, when they ranked 11th in defense and ninth in offense.
The Nuggets potentially being down several rotation pieces is obviously problematic, but I still think the spread is a little bit too small here. Golden State has only managed to win 9 games all year, and even a shorthanded Nuggets team losing this game would be quite the surprise.
The Warriors really have no answer for Jokic. With Murray likely to be sidelined, I’d be surprised if Jokic didn’t take charge of this game offensively and take an aggressive approach. Other than Willie Cauley-Stein, who is about 50 pounds lighter than Jokic, Golden State has no real legitimate centers on the active roster. If Jokic comes into this game with the right mindset he could put up a monster outing.
Frankly, that alone could be enough to get Denver over the hump here. While I am a bit nervous about the way the line has shifted over the course of the past few hours, taking advantage of line movement is an integral part of what it takes to become a successful bettor. So, take the value you can get on the Nuggets on the road here.
Even on the back-to-back, I like Denver to be able to cover the 4.5-point spread.