The team that refused to be sent home from the bubble five times before will be fighting for their lives again Tuesday night, and the Denver Nuggets are making believers out of bettors.
Not only that, but those who wagered on them in the NBA championship futures market back when they looked dead – twice – now have their fingers crossed that a huge payoff could be coming.
Denver, which came back from a 3-1 deficit against Utah to win their first round NBA playoff series, has now come back against the Los Angeles Clippers from a similar deficit to force a Game 7. They opened as 7-point underdogs, and the line had moved to 7.5 by Monday afternoon. If recent history is an example, that line will move again Tuesday before tipoff.
Nuggets have long been a popular longshot pick
In the futures market, the Nuggets are +2000 at DraftKings Sportsbook, by far the longest odds of any of the five remaining teams. Miami is next-longest at +500. At FanDuel Sportsbook, the Nuggets are +1800, and at PointsBet they are +1600.
In the mind of head coach Michael Malone, they should be even money.
“We started off training camp back in September in Colorado Springs talking about winning a championship,” he said. “And we still have those same goals. We’ve never lost sight of that. Four months during the hiatus, coming back into the bubble, trying to get healthy — we’ve always felt that we were good enough. No one else does. But we don’t care.”
Malone is wrong on that last point. Anybody who has futures wagers pending on any of the other four remaining teams cares quite a bit.
And for those rare few who bet on the Nuggets days, weeks or even months ago when their odds were more than 100-1?
Let’s just say their fingers are crossed.
“It’s problematic for us at this point,” said Andrew Mannino, senior sports content analyst at PointsBet. “Because they were a popular outsider pick.”
PointsBet had the Nuggets at +15000 when they trailed Utah 3-1 and at +12500 when they trailed the Clippers 3-1.
“They have certainly had an up-and-down playoffs,” Mannino added. “As far as (Tuesday’s) game goes, most of the bets are on the Nuggets and most of the money is on the Clippers.”
At DraftKings Sportsbook, exposure on the Nuggets is not a concern. Exposure on the Lakers is, said Johnny Avello, head of sportsbook operations.
“And let’s remember, the Nuggets still have to get through a Game 7 against the Clippers, they still have to get past the Lakers, and they’d still have to get past whoever comes out of the East,” Avello said, noting that one gambling option – pick the exact Finals matchup – was offering +1800 odds on a Celtics vs. Nuggets matchup and +2000 odds on a Heat vs. Nuggets matchup.
Avello, who said DK just had the largest NFL handle in its history, was seeing something resembling 50-50 action in terms of Clippers’ wagers and Nuggets’ wagers.
At FanDuel Sportsbook, spokesman Kevin Hennessy said 76% of the bets and 72% of the money was coming in on the Nuggets on spread bets while 82% of bets and 65% of the money were coming in on Denver on the moneyline.
NBA Playoffs totals markets
Interestingly, the over/under for Game 7 opened at 211.5 and dropped 4 points to 207.5 due to the preponderance of under bets hitting during the conference semifinals. Sunday’s 111-98 Nuggets victory fell 5.5 points shy of the over/under line.
During the conference semifinals, the under has hit in 18 of 24 games (with one push). That, folks, is what they might call a trend, eh?
The Miami-Boston over/under opened at 211.5 and dropped to 209.5.
Nobody knows quite what to expect in that series, especially with Miami having had seven days of rest since they knocked out the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks last Tuesday.
Here betting that Game 7 of Nuggets vs. Clippers is a classic. And here’s hoping that we get three more Game 7s over the remainder of the NBA playoffs. In this crazy year of 2020, the return of basketball has been one of the few things to be happy about.