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NBA: Denver Nuggets @ Cleveland Cavaliers preview

The NBA swings back into action after the All-Star break and one of the first games up features two teams with championship ambitions.

The Cleveland Cavaliers sit fourth in the Eastern Conference and they went into the break with an 8-2 record across their last 10 games. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets top an increasingly competitive Western Conference.

The Cavs lost this season’s other encounter in Colorado, but can they turn things around against a Nuggets side who struggle on their travels?

WhatDenver Nuggets @ Cleveland Cavaliers
WhereRocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, Ohio
When00:10, Friday, 24th February 2023
How to watchbet365's Sports Live Streaming, NBA Pass
OddsDEN Nuggets 5/4, CLE Cavaliers 20/29

Tricky finish for the Nuggets

These two sides are on course for really impressive finishes given where they started the season. The Nuggets were coming off a first-round exit last season, while the Cavs are ahead of schedule in their rebuild.

The pair head into the final six weeks of the season hoping to secure a strong finish and a good foothold for the postseason, but the Nuggets do have issues to fix if they want to make a deep playoff run.

Denver holds the biggest swing in point differential between home and away games across the league, having relied on their home advantage taking them top of the west. The Nuggets are +11.9 points per 100 possessions against opposition at home, but they are -3.9 in their away games.

They have a 14-14 record from their 28 away match-ups so far this season, with their league-high 27 home wins playing a massive part in their brilliant season to date. Of course, top seed guarantees them home advantage in every playoff series.

However, to claim that the Nuggets need to navigate a schedule that sees them play 13 of their final 23 games on the road. That tough run starts on here, against a Cavs side who also impress at home.

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Cavs ready for the run-in

The Cavs return from the All-Star break with an almost clean bill of health. They have no big injury news, with Ricky Rubio managing his minutes after a long spell on the sidelines.

They put together a good run of late, winning seven of their last eight games. Donovan Mitchell also impressed in the All-Star game for Team Giannis on Sunday night after a great scoring run heading into the break.

The Cavs have boosted their roster in the buyout market, with Kevin Love departing and three-time NBA champion Danny Green arriving. They look well set up for a deep playoff run, especially with the East getting weaker after the Brooklyn Nets lost Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The Nets departures have cleared the way for a top-four finish for the Cavs, but they remain 11/1 fourth-favourites to get out of the East.

The hosts away form could prove costly in the later rounds of the postseason, having posted a 13-17 away return this term. However, their 25-6 home record is among the very best in the east and that’s a huge factor going into this clash.

Understrength Nuggets could suffer

While the Nuggets have a good record against sides over .500, they could find themselves in a tough spot this week. They head to Cleveland without Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon, which puts a lot of weight on 5/14 Regular Season MVP favourite Nikola Jokic.

The Joker scored 28 points the last time these two met, while he can recover from a lacklustre showing in the All-Star game with a strong performance against the Cavs.

Jokic has scored at least 27 points in three of his last four appearances for the Nuggets and he is capable of causing problems for the Cavs. Before the break the Cavs gave up 29 points to Jokic’s big rival Joel Embiid, so facing another high-scoring performer could cause problems for the hosts.

Jokic is 20/23 to score at least 24 points in this one and that looks likely as he looks to make up for the absence of two core Nuggets players.

However, Jokic might struggle to match Mitchell, who put up 40 points on Sunday night. Before that, he had posted 30, 29, 41 and 33 points for the Cavs heading into the break, so it’s fair to say the guard has found his groove.

Mitchell can be backed at 5/6 to score at least 27 points in this game and considering that the Nuggets are poor defensively and even worse on the road, look to Mitchell to make a big impact on this clash.

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