Nuggets vs Warriors Picks and Predictions: Denver Keeps It Close After Opening Night Stumble

Denver's season started horribly, blown out by the tanking Jazz. Game two sees the Nuggets head to the Bay Area, and our NBA betting picks highlight why Nikola Jokic & Co. can keep it close vs. the Warriors.

Ed Scimia - Betting Analyst at
Ed Scimia • Betting Analyst
Oct 21, 2022 • 12:25 ET • 4 min read
Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets NBA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The defending champion Golden State Warriors will try to start their season with a second straight win as they host the Denver Nuggets in San Francisco on Friday night.

Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets suffered a 21-point loss to the Utah Jazz in their opener and now face a difficult challenge in bouncing back against the Warriors. 

This is a rematch of a first-round playoff matchup from last season. We’ll talk about how that series can help us handicap Friday’s game — and what has changed since then — in our NBA betting picks and predictions for Nuggets vs. Warriors on October 21.

Nuggets vs Warriors best odds

Nuggets vs Warriors picks and predictions

In last year’s playoff battle, Golden State found ways to minimize Nikola Jokic’s impact on its way to a 4-1 series win over Denver. That came despite the fact that the Nuggets had won three of the four regular-season meetings between the two teams last year.

The Warriors were able to focus on Jokic in part due to the absences of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., both of whom missed the entire 2021-22 season with injuries. Murray and Porter are now back in action, which should make the Nuggets a far more formidable opponent this year.

That didn’t show in Denver’s opener, as Utah scored 75 points in the first half and never relinquished its early lead. Still, there’s plenty of reason for optimism about the Nuggets season, especially as Murray and Porter continue to work their way back into game shape after a year off.

The Warriors played with an 11-man rotation in their opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s in part a show of the defending champion’s impressive depth, which should allow them to rest stars and survive injuries throughout the regular season, but it was also due to minutes limits on both Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr has acknowledged that he plans to ease both of those players back into playing more minutes over the next few weeks and that for now, he plans on relying on his team’s depth to win games. That’s a solid strategy, but it will put the Warriors at a disadvantage against their most talented opponents.

That includes the Nuggets, particularly now that they are back at full strength. Denver won the season series last year — including both games in San Francisco — in large part because its full lineup allowed Jokic to be the matchup nightmare the two-time reigning MVP presents when the entire defense can’t be focused on him.

Denver will have to play better on Friday than it did against the Jazz if it wants to win against Golden State. But the regular season matchup between these teams has favored the Nuggets in general, and while I’m not confident in them leaving San Francisco with a win, I think they’ll be in this game until the end regardless of who gets the victory. 

I’m taking the Nuggets and the five points, which is a generous spread considering the history between these two teams. 

My best bet: Nuggets +5 (-115 at DraftKings)

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Nuggets vs Warriors spread analysis

Golden State opened as a six-point favorite for Friday’s game, though bettors have taken that number down to 4.5 points at most sportsbooks as of this morning. 

We’ve already talked about the spread in my best bet section above, but it’s worth taking a second look at those matchups from last year. Denver escaped with two close wins in San Francisco, winning by one point and then three points in those two meetings. The teams split two games in Denver later in the season, with the Nuggets winning by seven three days before the Warriors finally notched a nine-point win.

It's notable that during the regular season, the Nuggets were able to accomplish this even with a lineup built primarily around Jokic. While Jokic scored 27.1 points per game along with 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists, nobody else on the Denver roster averaged over 15 points a night. Aaron Gordon (15.0 ppg) and Will Barton (14.7) were the main scoring contributors outside of Jokic.

Denver will look different with the addition of Murray, who scored 21.2 points per game in the 2020-21 season, and Porter, who averaged 19 points that season. These additional weapons should provide the Nuggets with far better floor balance and take some of the pressure off of Jokic, making Friday’s game an even tougher matchup for Golden State.

Nuggets vs Warriors Over/Under analysis

Oddsmakers posted a 229.5 total on Friday’s game, and that number has held steady, with totals between 229 and 230 available at various sites. The large total reflects the offensive firepower on display for both teams, especially considering Golden State’s depth and Denver’s returning stars.

It’s difficult to handicap the total, as these two teams have combined for some very different games over the past year. The Nuggets and Warriors put up 255 points in one of their regular season meetings last year while combining for just 175 on another night. Four of the five playoff games would have hit the Over on a 229.5 total, but the teams only scored 200 points in Golden State’s Game 5 clincher. 

On balance, I’m inclined to back the Under in Friday’s game. Those unfamiliar with last season’s numbers might be surprised to learn that neither Denver nor Golden State was among the top-scoring teams in the league despite their star power. The Nuggets scored 112.6 points per game — good for 10th in the NBA — while the Warriors ranked 13th (111.2 ppg).

Where Golden State really shined last season was on defense, allowing only 105.8 points per night. Denver was solid as well, ranking 15th in the NBA in scoring defense (110.9 ppg). 

Nuggets vs Warriors betting trend to know

The Nuggets have won three of the past four regular-season games straight up against the Warriors. Find more NBA betting trends for Nuggets vs. Warriors.

Nuggets vs Warriors game info

Location: Chase Center, San Francisco, CA
Date: Friday, October 21, 2022
Tip-off: 10:00 p.m. ET

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