As the Denver Nuggets inch closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the West, the rest of the conference is still jockeying for position — including the New Orleans Pelicans.
NOLA, at 38-38, is in the thick of the play-in drama and enters tonight as the No. 9 seed after its five-game win streak was snapped in a 120-109 loss to the Golden State Warriors Tuesday.
Concerns about the Nuggets’ mini slide earlier this month were seemingly overblown, with Denver putting together four straight wins to steady the ship — the latest a 116-111 victory over a Philadelphia 76ers team missing Joel Embiid and James Harden.
Check out our free Pelicans vs. Nuggets NBA picks and predictions for a closer look at tonight’s showdown.
Pelicans vs Nuggets best odds
Pelicans vs Nuggets picks and predictions
There was every reason to feel gloomier about the Nuggets’ title chances when Jamal Murray missed six games before the All-Star break with a knee injury — and again when speculation popped up this month about knee soreness for the Canadian point guard.
As phenomenal as MVP candidate Nikola Jokic is, Denver needs Murray in full flight to make it through the Western Conference playoffs.
The good news for Michael Malone’s men is that Murray seems to have his mojo back. With the postseason in sight, he’s moving well and scoring efficiently.
He put up 26 points and nine assists against a top-tier Milwaukee Bucks defense on Saturday night, and he’s reached the 25-point mark in three of his last five outings. I see him getting there (or close) tonight too.
It helps that Murray has been hot from beyond the arc over the past few weeks. He’s gone 20-for-33 from downtown over his last five games and, with Jokic questionable, Murray could even have more field-goal attempts against New Orleans.
The Pelicans can call on long, pesky wing defenders like Herb Jones and Naji Marshall, but they gave up 39 points to Steph Curry on Tuesday. Murray’s dual threat as a jump shooter and a driver should lead to similar scoring opportunities, especially if he can create mismatches and get Jonas Valanciunas switched onto him in space.
I don’t expect the Nuggets to have things all their own way tonight, but I like these odds for Murray to be a major spark for their offense.
My best bet: Jamal Murray Over 22.5 points (-105)
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Pelicans vs Nuggets spread analysis
A combination of Jokic’s wizardry and Denver’s 32-6 home record makes the Nuggets a 6.5-point favorite tonight. That number opened at 9.5 yesterday before being cut back to a line that better reflects how much this game means to the Pelicans, who still have a shot at creeping into the West's Top 6 despite a string of tough games ahead.
Still, Denver is 41-34-0 against the spread this season and this past week has put to rest some of the panic after a rough start to March. The Nuggets’ 129-106 win over the Bucks last weekend was especially noteworthy, with Jokic scoring 31 points and getting plenty of help from Murray.
But the Pelicans are dangerous, even with Zion Williamson still sidelined. They made the Warriors sweat on Tuesday and were the better team through three quarters before collapsing down the stretch.
Trey Murphy III has taken his game to another level this month as a second or third scoring option (including 10 threes against the L.A. Clippers last weekend), and the visitors have covered the spread in each of their last five games when playing on one day’s rest.
That said, don’t overvalue New Orleans’ recent winning run, which included victories over a tank-tastic trio — the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Charlotte Hornets.
Pelicans vs Nuggets Over/Under analysis
Without Williamson (who could return to action before the end of the regular season) and with diminished point guard depth, the Pelicans have leaned on their defense as a catalyst. New Orleans has allowed 110 points or fewer in five of its last six games — albeit against a very friendly schedule.
As a result, the Under has been a winning ticket with the Pelicans in the past few weeks. It’s 6-1 in their last seven games after an ATS loss, and points could come at a premium for the visitors tonight against a Denver team with Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the perimeter to take on the Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum assignments.
Unders have told the story recently in Nuggets' games too, cashing in their last six games overall. The bench, heavily dependent on Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, continues to be a question mark, and the non-Jokic minutes are rarely smooth.
Pelicans vs Nuggets betting trend to know
Don’t count on the Pelicans to serve up a free-scoring shootout here. The Under is 7-1 in New Orleans’ last eight road games. Find more NBA betting trends for Pelicans vs. Nuggets.
Pelicans vs Nuggets game info
|Location:||Ball Arena, Denver, CO|
|Date:||Thursday, March 30, 2023|
|Tip-off:||10:00 p.m. ET|