This is Game 1 of what figures to be close a series. Per the DraftKings Sportsbook, the Nuggets (-155) are slightly more likely to win this series. They get a slight edge due to home-court advantage and I expect the home team to be favored in every game of the series. We have some key injury news to look out for as Enes Kanter ($9,200) is questionable to play with a shoulder injury. For up-to-the-minute news, analysis and lineups, download the DK Live app, as NBA news, injury reports and betting lines can change throughout the day. We will keep you up to the minute on the DK Live app.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS— The favorites have won 21 of the Trail Blazers’ last 22 games.
— The Nuggets have won 13 of their last 14 games against Northwest Division opponents.
— The Trail Blazers have failed to cover the spread in six of their last seven playoff games as underdogs.
— Seven of the Trail Blazers’ last eight Monday games as road underdogs have gone UNDER the total points line.
— The Trail Blazers have won the first quarter in each of their last eight road games.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
Trail BlazersAs noted in the intro, Kanter ($9,200) might sit out with a shoulder injury. Portland has had five days off since its last game, so it seems more likely to me that Kanter plays than sits, however this is a prediction and far from a guarantee. If he’s out, then a ton of cheap value opens in the Blazers’ frontcourt. They are already thin on bigs due to the season-ending injury to Jusuf Nurkic, so both Zach Collins ($1,000) and Meyers Leonard ($1,000) would have to play significant roles. Of the two, Collins would make for the better option.
He’s an obvious play, but Damian Lillard ($18,900) is chalk that I think must be eaten tonight. He was outstanding in the series against the Thunder and is my top pick to play in the Captain’s position. His bump in production was a result of increased playing time. In the final two games of the series, Dame averaged 43.2 minutes per game and should play 40-plus each night of this series since the betting numbers indicate competitive games.
As a cheaper play from Portland, I am looking at Al-Farouq Aminu ($5,800). He could play a few extra minutes if Kanter is out and he was fairly consistent in the first round of the playoffs with at least 19 DKFP in all five games. In the regular season, he was excellent against the Nuggets and averaged 35.9 DKFP in four games.
NuggetsI want to start building my lineups with Lillard and Nikola Jokic ($13,000). This becomes easier if Kanter is out, but without many expensive options outside of the two All-Stars, there isn’t much opportunity cost to jamming them in together. Portland was decent against centers during the regular season with an OPRK of 11th, however this doesn’t account for the injury to Nurkic. Without Nurk, the team was much weaker defensively on the interior. In the one game Jokic played the Blazers without Nurkic, he scored 58.75 DKFP.
Just like with The Joker, Paul Millsap ($6,600) is in a better spot without Nurkic on the floor. In the game Jokic went off sans Nurk, Millsap was also solid and scored 37.25 DKFP. He didn’t put up gaudy fantasy-point totals against the Spurs, but his playing time was encouraging. Millsap is a key cog for Denver and averaged 34.7 minutes in the final two games of the series. I expect he will once again be pushed into a big workload in this series and this should mean big fantasy numbers since he scored over a fantasy point per minute in the regular season.
For cheap, I think the guy to look at from the Nuggets is Torrey Craig ($5,600). He took the starting job from Will Barton ($4,600) in the first round and ran away with it. He averaged 22.25 DKFP as a starter, while Barton struggled, so I expect Craig will retain his starting gig. If for some reason Barton starts then he would become a viable option in Craig’s place.
THE OUTCOMEAs 4.5 points favorites, I think the Nuggets take Game 1. I was shocked to see the Blazers get passed the Thunder in their opening round, but this will happen when Lillard is knocking down 37-foot jumpers with ease. I think the loss of Nurkic catches up to them in this series and the lack of frontcourt depth will be an issue going up against Jokic, who I think is the best center in the league.
Final Score: Denver 115, Portland 110
Favorite Prop Bet
Damian Lillard OVER 26.5 points (-121)For Portland to win another series it will take a herculean effort from Lillard. The line for his points seems a bit low to me when considering his role from the last series. Lillard is coming off a 50-point game and he scored at least 29 points in four of the five games against the Thunder. He averaged 26.3 points per game in the regular season and is now playing more minutes with an increased usage rate.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is gehrenberg) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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