NBA Series Bets: Can T’Wolves Give Nuggets A Scare And Long Second-Round Series?

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Written By Mo Nuwwarah | Last Updated
nba betting

NBA betting is heating up as the playoffs roll on, with perhaps the most high-profile series yet shaping in the second round. The Minnesota Timberwolves travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets in a rematch of a first-round series last year.

Will Anthony Edwards’ ascent continue after he has already disposed of Kevin Durant and Devin Booker? Or will Nikola Jokic remain inevitable? Let’s take a look at NBA playoff odds and see if we can find any value. Game 1 is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

Nuggets, Timberwolves To Meet For Second Straight Year

Last year, these teams found themselves meeting in much different circumstances. Little was expected of the Timberwolves after an uneven regular season, while the Nuggets entered as a legitimate title contender. Denver summarily dispatched Minnesota in a gentleman’s sweep, winning its four games by an average margin of 12.5.

This year, things went considerably better for the Wolves. They finished just a game behind Denver while accumulating a +7.1 differential, per Cleaning The Glass, a number quite a bit higher than Denver’s +5.9.

Results on the court wound up pretty promising for Minnesota as well. They split the season series with Denver, each team winning once at home and once on the road.

Have the Wolves improved enough to give the Nuggets a real challenge this year?

How They Match Up

Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind whenever a team is playing Denver is what they can do to affect Jokic. Stopping him isn’t the question. That isn’t happening. Nobody has really so much as slowed him down since he began rampaging through the league again last season once he had his co-stars back in place.

There, the Timberwolves appear to have the tools, at least on paper. They have the probable Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. And overall, they had the best defense in the NBA, and not by a little bit, this season.

Reality is, unfortunately, a bit less rosy. Jokic has not historically had much trouble scoring on Gobert. His numbers were quite strong against Minnesota this season, averaging 33.3/11.8/4.3 on 58.4/40/69.7 shooting splits.

The low assist number is possibly of note for prop bettors, though. It makes sense that Jokic turns into more of a scorer in this matchup if the Wolves decline to send defensive help and simply trust Gobert to limit the former MVP.

An equally impactful clash may take place at the 3-point line. Minnesota isn’t thought of as a high-volume 3-point team, and they aren’t. But they were the most accurate team in the NBA from deep this season. They defended the 3-point line well also, and nobody took fewer 3s than Denver. Minnesota must push this edge to have a chance.

Watch the turnover battle as well. Minnesota had a notable issue there, ranking 23rd in turnover rate, but Denver prefers to play a more conservative brand of defense. They forced few opponent miscues and got little done in transition.

The stage seems set for a half-court, 2-point-centric battle.

NBA Betting: Why I Think The Wolves Will Make This A Long Series

Perhaps the biggest wild card heading into this series is Jamal Murray’s health. Game-winning shots aside, he had a notably ineffective series against the Lakers. Murray’s counting stats were fine, but 40% from the field and 30% from 3 won’t do it. He’s fighting through a calf injury and dealt with a number of leg ailments this year while missing 23 games.

Jokic figures to get his, but if Murray isn’t operating closer to 100%, the Nuggets are in real danger of seeing their title defense end here. When the teams met in Denver late in the season sans Murray, Minnesota rolled to a pretty comfortable 13-point win.

Anthony Edwards looked completely unstoppable in the series against Phoenix, and he should thrive in this style of ball. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope figures to get first crack at him.

Despite the seemingly easy 4-1 win over the Lakers, I thought the Nuggets looked a bit vulnerable. Murray doesn’t come up with a couple of hero shots and that could have easily gone the distance.

The Wolves are peaking, and they have the size to at least make Jokic work for his points and stick close to his teammates.

Ultimately, I have a hard time trusting this Minnesota offense late in tight playoff games, though Edwards is giving me reason to reconsider. I still expect Denver to advance, but I really like Over 5.5 games -160 here, available in NBA betting at DraftKings Sportsbook. Last year, I hammered Denver -2.5 games in this spot (along with a heartbreaking miss on Denver 4-0), but I think the Wolves are ready to give them a real challenge this time around.

Best of luck with your NBA betting in the playoffs.