The Denver Nuggets face the second leg of a tough back-to-back on Friday night, as the Cleveland Cavaliers come to town.
The Nuggets claimed a 122-91 win over the LA Clippers last night to solidify their lead at the top of the Western Conference, but they are straight back into action to face one of the strongest sides in the East.
The Cavs are fourth in their Conference and they haven’t faded away yet, with their strong performances making a case for them to be title contenders. Can they build on that with a win over the top side in the West?
|What||CLE Cavaliers @ DEN Nuggets|
|Where||Ball Arena, Denver|
|When||02:00, Saturday, 7th January 2023|
|How to watch||NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds||CLE Cavaliers 39/20, DEN Nuggets 20/47|
The Nuggets were dominant at both ends of the court in their win over the Clippers.
Not only did they rack up a 30-point margin, but they also managed to hold Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to a combined nine points.
The Nuggets haven’t been defensively stellar this season, but that was an impressive showing.
They took advantage of the Clippers’ issues defensively, with the team struggling to maintain their good defensive standards on the road.
It also continued a brilliant run at Ball Arena for the Nuggets, who are now 15-3 in front of their home support.
That’s a bit of a step down from the top five favourites, who are all in single figures. However, the Nuggets are to claim the top seed in a competitive Western Conference, with Mike Malone’s side looking streets ahead of the team which made a first-round exit in last season’s Play-offs.
The hosts are a much more well-rounded side this term, with both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr back to fitness.
Last year it would have been tough for the Nuggets to win any game where Jokic posted just 12 points, but that’s exactly what they did on Thursday night, with Murray leading the way.
The visiting Cavs are outsiders here and they can be backed at 10/11 with a +6.0 handicap going into this clash.
However, they’re expected to be without Donovan Mitchell, who has contributed 29 points and 4.9 assists per game this term.
Replacing those points against the Nuggets won’t be easy. His backcourt partner Darius Garland is also expected to miss out, so the Cavs are set to be missing some creativity with their two top scorers and assisters both missing.
Between them they average 50 points per game, which offers the Nuggets the opportunity to rack up another big win.
The Cavs already didn’t look all that convincing coming into this one, having lost 10 of their 17 away trips so far this season.
They come up against a Nuggets side who have a 8-2 split behind them across their last 10 outings, so it’s hard to back against the hosts in this one.
While the visitors are likely to miss their scoring threat, they can still be relied on defensively. Both Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are expected to feature and those two are among the few presences with the strength to go toe-to-toe with Nikola Jokic.
The Cavs have the best defensive rating in the NBA this term, conceding just 108.5 points per 100 possessions. Their guards haven’t been a massive part of that, it’s the Cavs’ towering frontcourt which has been their defensive cornerstone.
They also give up the second-fewest points in the paint, having let in just 45.4 per game. That’s a record they have maintained against stronger sides, given that they’ve got a winning record against sides who are over .500 this term.
They’re 11-6 in those games, but they also come up against a Nuggets side who are 8-4 against the league’s stronger sides.
However, with the Nuggets fresh off their brilliant defensive display they should keep a Cavs side who are missing their best scorers below 100 points.
Even on the second night of a back-to-back the Nuggets have a great chance to send a message out defensively, while the Cavs will need to be at their best to hold this Denver side at bay.
Given that, the points line is worth looking at, having been set at 222. With fewer than 222 points available at 10/11, that looks like the best way to go in this clash.