A very tired Nikola Jokic could make the San Antonio Spurs a sneaky-good NBA pick this Thursday when they host the Denver Nuggets.
Denver Nuggets vs. San Antonio Spurs
Thursday, December 9, 2021- 8:30 PM EST at AT&T Center
There’s something to be said for lowered expectations. The San Antonio Spurs are one of the worst teams in the NBA at 8-15, but that was bound to happen now that DeMar DeRozan (and LaMarcus Aldridge) are both out of the picture. Now that Dejounte Murray is healthy and in charge, the Spurs have been a profitable NBA pick this year at 13-10 ATS; they’ve even won four of their last six at 5-1 ATS. Well done.
In stark contrast, we have the Denver Nuggets (12-12 SU, 10-14 ATS), who are coming off Wednesday’s 120-114 overtime win versus the New Orleans Pelicans as 1.5-point road dogs. The Nuggets had high expectations this year after three straight seasons in the playoffs; instead, they’ve been limited by multiple injuries, and there’s a long list of players who won’t be available for Thursday’s matchup in San Antonio. Is Nikola Jokic among them? The NBA odds are on hold at press time while we wait and see – and our pick ultimately depends on it.
The Nik of Time
This could very well be another one of those situations where we bet on the team that’s missing its superstar. Jokic (plus-14.1 BPM at Basketball Reference) has been playing even better than last year when he finally won his first MVP award, but if he’s given the second of these back-to-back games off, old-school contrarian logic dictates we put Denver in our NBA picks.
There was some talk that Jokic might miss the front end of this back-and-back instead. He didn’t; Jokic played 37 minutes and was instrumental in Denver’s comeback, finishing the night with 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists on 17-for-23 shooting. Not bad. Will Barton (illness) also played despite being listed as questionable, and Bones Hyland (protocols) was cleared in time to suit up.
I’ll Give You an Answer in the Morning
As it turns out, the Spurs have just opened as 1.5-point home dogs on the overseas NBA lines, a price that suggests Jokic will be in uniform Tuesday night – and that we should go ahead and pound San Antonio. However, FiveThirtyEight project the Spurs to win this matchup by 3.5 points, which only makes sense if Jokic isn’t playing; Denver’s plus-0.55 Simple Rating System at press time is nearly 1.5 points better than San Antonio’s (minus-0.89 SRS), and home-court advantage has only been worth 1.40 points according to Jeff Sagarin at The USA Today.
It’s still entirely possible that Jokic gets the day off, so as usual, wait for the morning shoot-around and see what the deal is before placing your best bets. But the way things are going for both these clubs, we’re content at the ranch to stick with our “fade/follow” strategy and follow the Spurs as our official pick, with the assumption that Jokic is playing. It’s just the right thing to do.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.