The conference semifinals in the Eastern Conference are now set after the Boston Celtics knocked off the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 on Thursday night. Boston will host the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night to open their series, while the New York Knicks will face the Miami Heat in the other showdown in the Eastern Conference.
One of the conference semifinals in the Western Conference will get underway on Saturday night. The Phoenix Suns will take on the Denver Nuggets with the winner advancing to the Western Conference Finals. Although Denver is the No. 1 seed in the West, Phoenix is a slight favorite per the NBA series odds.
NBA Betting Odds at BetRivers Sportsbook
Phoenix Suns (+2.5) at Denver Nuggets
Both the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets closed out their first round series on Tuesday night. Phoenix was tested though as first Kawhi Leonard and then Russell Westbrook helped the Los Angeles Clippers put up quite the fight. That has some people with NBA futures bets on Phoenix a little nervous at this point. The Suns had some real issues on defense, and they don’t have much of a bench. Phoenix’s five starters averaged a whopping 107.6 PPG between them in the series with the Clippers, as Josh Okogie was the leading bench scorer with 6.0 PPG.
However, it is safe to say that the Suns have the best offense in the league when their starting five is on the court and playing to its potential. Devin Booker has taken a big step forward and is averaging 37.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 6.4 APG, and he is leading the team in steals. Booker is knocking down 60% of his field goals and 46.7% of his threes as he is taking advantage of the open looks he sees in an offense with Kevin Durant and Chris Paul alongside him.
The offense is adapting to be more efficient with the addition of Durant. There were some late game jitters in Game 1 of their first round series, but Durant has settled into an all-around role where he is averaging 28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 6.2 APG. He is making 51.8% of his field goals and 45.8% of his threes, and he has been able to get to the line nine times a game while nailing 95.6% of those freebies.
That will be tough for Denver’s defense to stop. The Nuggets have the benefit of home court advantage during the Western Conference Playoffs, and that gives them an edge. They also had the easiest first round opponent by a mile in the conference as the Minnesota Timberwolves were no match for the Nuggets. Minnesota lost Game 1 by 29 points, and the only series win for the T-Wolves came in overtime in Game 4.
Everything runs through Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray in this offense. Jokic is the best passing big man we have ever seen in the NBA, and he is averaging 26.2 PPG, 12.4 RPG, and 9.0 APG in the playoffs so far. Even though teams try to limit his touches in all sorts of ways, he is putting up monster numbers.
As for Murray, he is averaging 27.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 6.4 APG. After missing all of last season due to injury, he is making the most of his return to the postseason by hitting 47.1% of his field goals and 42.9% of his threes.
The X-Factor on Denver is Michael Porter Jr. Porter was the No. 1 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school, but he fell to the 14th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft because of his back issues. When he is healthy, he is one of the best small forwards in the league as a player that can create his own shot and knock down threes. However, his health is always a potential issue.
Over 225 in PHO/DEN
I don’t expect to see a defensive game in Game 1 as both teams will need some time to make adjustments on that end. Additionally, my general thought in this series is to go with Phoenix and the ‘Over’ when the starters have significant rest given how much they can light it up and the paucity of the Suns’ bench.