The Nuggets are now 4-4 in the postseason after dropping two straight games in the desert. Denver is 2-1 ATS when marked as favorites so far in their playoff run.
The Suns are 6-2 both straight up and against the spread in the playoffs. Phoenix is 2-2 when tabbed as underdogs with two upsets against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.
Here’s how sportsbooks have set the opening Suns-Nuggets odds.
NBA Odds: Suns-Nuggets Game 3 Odds
Denver Nuggets -1.5 (-110)
Phoenix Suns +1.5 (-110)
Over 224.5 Points (-110)
Under 224.5 Points (-110)
Why The Nuggets Could Cover The Spread
Denver has their back against the wall for a critical Game 3 that they can’t afford to lose. Thankfully for Nuggets fans and bettors, they have a reliable source to turn to in the newest MVP.
Nikola Jokic has been lights out on his home floor. In the Nuggets’ three postseason games at home, Jokic is averaging 36.7 points on 55.2% shooting, including 40% from deep.
The Nuggets badly need a monster performance from their big man on Friday. In games where the Joker scores 35 points or more, they’re a perfect 4-0 this postseason. Anything less than 35 from the MVP and Denver is 0-4.
Obviously, Jokic can’t be the only source of offense if the Nuggets hope to win this game. After having a great series against the Blazers, Denver needs Michael Porter Jr. to step up tonight.
MPJ is currently shooting 34.5% from the field this series and only averaging 13.0 points per game, well below his averages in the last series against the Blazers. However, like Jokic, he fares much better in front of the home crowd.
If Jokic and Porter Jr. can elevate their offensive games Friday night, the Nuggets will have a great shot of getting this series within reach.
Defensively, the Nuggets need to focus on defending the perimeter. They were torched in Game 2 by the Suns from deep, and have allowed Phoenix to shoot 43% from three in the series.
Statistically, this number is bound to drop. Phoenix shot 37.8% from three in the regular season, and were almost completely stifled at the three-point line by the Lakers in the first round. Denver held opponents to 36.3% from range in the regular season, the eleventh lowest percentage in the NBA.
The Suns’ hot shooting should come down to earth a little in Game 3 in front of the raucous Denver fans. Look for the Nuggets to take advantage and try to run up the numbers early on Phoenix.
Why The Suns Could Cover The Spread
Phoenix pulls in to Denver as one of the hottest teams in the postseason.
The Suns have won five straight games, including three straight against the defending champions to close them out before facing the Nuggets.
The most important facet of the Suns’ success has been their scoring depth. In both games of the series, every Suns starter has reached double-digit scoring.
While the Nuggets are almost entirely reliant on Jokic to put the team on his back on the offensive end, Phoenix has a multitude of players ready to shoot and score the ball at will. In their last five games, the Suns have had three different players lead them in scoring.
Of course, Devin Booker has been doing the heavy lifting. Booker is averaging 27.1 points on 49.7% shooting from the field while shooting 41.3% from deep and 91% from the line.
This near 50-40-90 stat line has made the Suns a daunting opponent, pairing a deadly scorer with a capable cast. Even if Booker goes cold, Phoenix is still a threat. Book shot only 6-14 from the field in Game 2 and the Suns still blew out the Nuggets.
Because of the lack of scoring on the Nuggets side, Phoenix has been able to key in on Nikola Jokic.
The MVP has yet to break 24 points in the series, a figure he broke in four out of five games against Portland. In a more telling statistic, Jokic had a combined nine assists in the first two games of the series. His teammates simply aren’t making their shots.
The Suns should continue to employ Deandre Ayton in mostly single coverage on Jokic, who has done an excellent job so far in slowing the Joker. However, they should be more than willing to send double teams if Jokic heats up, and force anyone but the MVP to beat them tonight.
Final Suns-Nuggets Game 3 Prediction & Pick
The Suns have looked like the far better team all series, and it doesn’t make sense to back away from the hot hand now. Phoenix’s depth is the game-changer here, and even though Denver might have the best player on the court in Jokic, it would require a herculean effort to lift the Nuggets to a win against a Suns team that is firing on all cylinders. Play the Suns with the points to avoid a buzzer-beating heartbreak, but Phoenix should win this one to move one game away from a Western Conference Finals berth.
FINAL SUNS-NUGGETS GAME 3 PREDICTION & PICK: PHOENIX SUNS +1.5: PHX 118, DEN 111