Denver again looked awful defensively against sixth seed Utah in a 129 – 127 loss. For the first time in NBA history, opposing players, Donovan Mitchell for the Jazz and Jamal Murray for the Nuggets, both scored at least 50 points. The Jazz took a 3 – 1 series lead and pushed the Nuggets to the brink of elimination.

The last-second three-pointer by Murray that gave him 50 points for the game allowed his team to cover the +3.5 spread, changing the betting fortunes of everyone that had a point spread wager on the game. To make matters worse for the losing side of the bet was that the shot had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.

Game 5 Odds

Despite being the lower-seeded team, the performance of the Jazz in the last three games of the series led oddsmakers to install them as three-point favorites. The over/under is at 220.5.

In their three wins, the Jazz have outscored the Nuggets by over 19 points a game and would have covered in all of them if not for Murray’s game-ending prayer in Game 4.

So far in the series, the teams have combined for an average of 238.5 points a game, comfortably higher than the over/under number for Game 5. The Nuggets have failed to hold the Jazz to less than 124 points in any game of the series and were only able to win Game 1 by putting up 135 points.

In the eight games the Nuggets played in the seeding round, they were 3 – 5 and gave up an average of just over 123 points a game.

From a betting perspective, those figures are extremely relevant. First, because the Nuggets’ performance so far in the series should come as no surprise, as they’ve continued doing what they’ve done since getting to Orlando. Second, it’s probably unrealistic to think they can suddenly find a way to hold down the offensive production of the Jazz.

Perhaps the people setting the odds know something that the rest of us don’t, but that over/under total, based on the current series, is low. In the seeding round, the average combined score of Utah’s games was 229, and Denver’s was 241, so it’s even more inexplicable factoring that in.

According to the Denver Nuggets’ website late Monday night, Jamal Murray is listed as out for Game 5. If that doesn’t change by game time, perhaps that 220.5 over/under will make more sense. Considering the other injuries that the Nuggets have suffered, it’s probable Murray’s absence will signal Denver’s exit from Orlando and the NBA bubble.

The Rest of the Series

In Game 4, Jamal Murray was able to score 50 points because he shot 60% (9 – 15) from behind the 3 point line. He continually made timely shots to keep Denver in the game, bringing them back from a double-digit deficit. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, they were unsuccessful in consistently stopping the Jazz and eventually ran out of steam.

Based on what I saw Sunday night, it’s hard for me to believe that the Nuggets have a reasonable chance of winning Game 5, much less the series, with or without Murray. For the last twelve games, they have given up an average of over 124 points a game, holding teams to under that number just twice. That isn’t playoff basketball, and their 4 – 8 record in Orlando reflects that.

The Western Conference has suddenly become very interesting, with three underdogs looking like they’ll be tough outs. After Game 5, I predict it will be time to watch what the Thunder and Mavericks can pull off, because the Jazz will have punched their ticket to the second round.


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