Denver -9.5 at Chicago O/U 217.5
The Denver Nuggets have struggled to bring their A-game against weaker foes all year. Already on this 0-2 road trip, Mike Malone’s squad has lost at Memphis, allowing the Grizzlies to snap their 19 game losing streak in the process. The Nuggets have also lost SU at Dallas, at home to Phoenix at home to Atlanta and at Sacramento since the calendar turned to 2018; all as bigger favorites against lottery bound competition.
So what makes tonight’s game different? Two things. First, it’s legitimately ‘circle-the-wagons’ time for this road favorite, as they’ve fallen two games out of the #8 seed in the West in a tight playoff chase. Despite being out of the playoffs if they started today, Denver is only 4 games in the loss column away from hosting a first round series! They are in Game 3 of a seven game road trip – their next home game won’t be until April. Coach Malone, talking about tonight’s game: “Effort, fight, urgency ... cannot be words that we're talking about.” Expect a focused effort from the Nuggets this evening.
Secondly, there’s almost no case to be made for betting on the Chicago Bulls right now. The Bulls have been in full-on tank mode since before the All Star Break. Their only wins since the break have come against fellow lottery teams Memphis, Atlanta and Dallas. Six of their nine losses since the All Star Break have come by 15 points or more, non-competitive in defeat.
Chicago’s ‘Big 3’ building blocks for the future – Lauri Markkanen, Zack LaVine and Kris Dunn – are all hurt; with Dunn out and both Markkanen and LaVine listed as ‘doubtful’. That leaves Fred Hoiberg with very, very little to work with; a mismashed roster of guys who aren’t part of the long term rebuilding process in the Windy City.
Hoiberg’s quote, looking to avoid any ‘tanking’ fines from the league office for leaving his three young studs on the bench: “We understand that these are legitimate things going on. We've still got a lot of things going on with the three guys we accomplished in (last year's) trade -- Kris and Lauri and Zach -- and hopefully we do get them back on the floor sometime soon. When they're ready to go, they're going to be back out there playing again. At the same time, we understand that right now we've got to look at some guys in different situations, which we've done." Expect another no-show from the underdog. Take the Nuggets.