The Denver Nuggets finally subdued the Utah Jazz 80–78 in an uncharacteristically low scoring but thrilling Game 7 of their first-round NBA playoff series. With the win, the third-seeded Nuggets moved on to meet the number two seed Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Clippers had a more difficult than expected time subduing the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks in six games in the opening round.
After falling behind 3-1 in the series while giving up over 125 points a game to the Jazz, the Nuggets found their defense giving up an average of just 97 points over the final three games. The 158 combined points in Game 7 fell far below the 218 points that was the over/under bet.
What was even more surprising than the low scoring Game 7 was how the Nuggets resurrected themselves after being taken to the brink of elimination by the Jazz.
The Clippers are expected to challenge the Los Angeles Lakers for a spot in the NBA Finals, but they will probably need to play more consistently than they did against the pesky Mavericks. They finally looked like a championship contender in winning the last two games, 154-111 and 111-97, to advance to play the Nuggets.
Game 1 Betting Odds
The Clippers opened as six point favorites and -235 on the moneyline bet. The line has since moved to -8.0 and -400 for Los Angeles, with an over/under of 223.0 points paying out at -110 for both the over and under bets.
The Clippers won the last two games of their first-round series while the Nuggets, facing elimination, defeated the Jazz in the final three games. Both teams have momentum, but the Clippers have had a couple of extra days of rest after advancing.
Without any travel in the NBA bubble, that may not be as big a factor as it has been in the past when the Nuggets would have had to make the trip to Los Angeles after their scintillating Game 7 victory.
In their opening-round series, the Clippers averaged 127 points a game while giving up 117. They scored 130 or more points in three games, including 154 in Game 5. Like the Nuggets, they finally tightened up their defense and were able to hold the Mavericks to 97 points, their lowest total of the series in the Game 6 closeout win.
Denver got off to a slow start defensively against Utah and after a 10 point win in Game 1, got blown out by a combined 56 points in Games 2 and 3. They were able to right the ship in the last three games, but despite Jamal Murray’s pair of 50 point games, the Nuggets still only averaged 110 points per game.
In their first-round series, the Nuggets had to contend with only a single consistent scoring threat in Donovan Mitchell. The Clippers pose a much different challenge, with experienced champion Kawhi Leonard and dangerous Paul George both able to take over a game.
Denver can’t take four games to figure it out like it took them against the Jazz, because by that time, they will most likely have been swept.
For the Clippers, handling Jamal Murray will probably be easier than what Luka Doncic presented for the Mavericks. Without other consistent offensive contributors, Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers has a decision to make on whether to let Murray have his points and shut down everyone else, or defend Murray and trust that no one else will be able to carry the offensive load.
The bottom line here is that the Clippers are a much better team than the Jazz team that almost eliminated the Nuggets. They have more weapons offensively, and the Nuggets lack defensive consistency. This series could be over in five games.