After dispatching the Minnesota Timberwolves over the weekend, the Denver Nuggets start-up a two-game trip to Memphis to play the Grizzlies twice in three days, and NBA Oddsmakers have the Grizz as slight -1.5 favorites in the first matchup.
Denver Nuggets vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Monday, November 01, 2021 – 08:00 PM EDT at FedExForum
Can Denver Slow Down Ja Morant?
Ja Morant has been on an absolute rampage across the first couple weeks of the season and now Denver gets the opportunity to not only play against him on the road on Monday, they get to run it back and do it for a second time in a row on Wednesday as well.
Morant has been nothing short of spectacular, but the Grizzlies have started to show some of the same weaknesses they had last season and Morant’s greatness can’t make up for all of it. Their defense has been very bad. They rank in the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency, and if they want a chance to beat the Nuggets tonight, or Wednesday, they will have to defend through all four quarters.
Another issue is their scoring behind Morant. Dillon Brooks, who usually takes up the second or third scoring option behind Morant, has been out for the last week and will still be out Monday against Denver. On top of that Jaren Jackson Jr. seems to be falling right back into bad habits with foul trouble, so having him on the court consistently for 30 minutes a game has been a struggle early in the season as well.
You have to remind yourself when betting or fading this team that they are young and their peaks will be very high, but their valleys will be very low as well. One area where the Grizz have been stuck in the valley has been their scoring early in games. Their first-quarter defense through their first six games has been abysmal and I think we can exploit that here on Monday with a very good team coming to Beale Street.
The Sharp Pick
Through six games this season, the Grizzlies are giving up 126 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter and scoring just 96.2 points per 100 possessions. That should get better as the season goes along, especially as we get further into the season. They can’t be almost -30 net points in the first quarter forever, they are a better team than that. For the whole game, Memphis ranks 29th defensively too, so there isn’t much room to go anywhere but up in that department.
However, the Nuggets are a much bigger team and they should be able to avoid getting beat by making Morant, go for 40 points and assuring that the other Grizzlies are shut down.
Furthermore, I think Denver is an excellent first-quarter play because of the metrics mentioned above. The Nuggets are on the complete opposite end of the first quarter spectrum. They’re allowing just 97.5 points per 100 possessions in their first quarters, which ranks second only to the Miami Heat.
So far this morning, the NBA Oddsmakers have the Grizzlies as very small favorites in the full game NBA Odds, so I’m backing the Nuggets early to see if the trends of Memphis falling flat and Denver’s tough defense continue in the first 12 minutes of this one. Memphis is coming off getting blown out, so I expect they will be ready to play here, but it may take a few quarters for them to find their groove.
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