LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (40-28)
at DENVER NUGGETS (32-35)
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:05 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -1.5, Total: 221.0
The Nuggets will be hoping for a big home win over the Clippers on Thursday night.
Los Angeles is going to come out hungry in this one, as the team is coming off of a bad 97-96 home loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Clippers have now lost two straight games and theyíll need to turn things around quickly. Los Angeles badly wants a top-four seed in the Western Conference, as itíll be tough to win on the road in the playoffs. The Nuggets, however, are also looking for every win they can get. They are currently in the eighth spot in the Western Conference, but they canít afford to lose many more games. Theyíre hot coming into this one, though. Denver has won-and-covered in three straight games and four of its past five. The Nuggets have shot 50% or better in three of the past four, as well. If they keep playing that type of offense then itís hard to imagine them missing out on the postseason. Itís worth noting that this head-to-head series has been all Denver through three meetings this season. The Clippers won 119-102 as eight-point home favorites the first time they met (Dec. 20), but the Nuggets won 106-102 in Los Angeles on Dec. 26 and then 123-98 as five-point favorites in Denver on Jan. 21. Los Angeles will be confident though, as this team is 30-18 ATS when revenging a loss where its opponent scored 100 or more points over the past two seasons. The Clippers are also facing a Nuggets team that is expected to be without SF Wilson Chandler (Groin), PF Darrell Arthur (Rest) and SF Danilo Gallinari (Knee) on Thursday. PF Kenneth Faried (Back) is also questionable for Denver. Los Angeles isnít full healthy either, though. The Clippers are going to be without PF Blake Griffin (Rest) and C DeAndre Jordan (Rest), so the Nuggets will have no excuses here.
The Clippers can badly use a victory on Thursday, but the team is not going to have Griffin or Jordan in this one. That is not good news for Los Angeles, as this team is currently fighting for home court advantage in the first round. If PG Chris Paul (17.7 PPG, 9.2 APG, 5.1 RPG, 2.1 SPG) ends up suiting up for this one then saying heíll need to play well is an understatement. Paul had just six points on 2-for-10 shooting from the floor in a loss to the Bucks on Wednesday, and he will need to get back on track if he doesnít rest here. If heís out there then the Clippers will need 30 from him against a Denver team that is weak at the point guard spot. Los Angeles will also need a big game from SG J.J. Redick (14.6 PPG). Redick has not been shooting the ball well recently, as he has hit just 33.3% of his threes over the past five games. He should, however, thrive in an up-tempo game like this one. Heís averaging 20.5 PPG in two meetings with Denver this season, and he will likely need to hit the 25-point mark in this one.
The Nuggets are rolling right now and they have a good opportunity to pick up a home win on Thursday. With the Clippers resting their bigs, C Nikola Jokic (16.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 4.6 APG) should absolutely dominate this game on Thursday. Jokic has one of the best players in basketball this season and should find his way onto an All-NBA team at the end of the year. His combination of size and skill will be far too much for the Clippers to handle without Jordan. Another guy to watch out for in this game is PG/SG Jamal Murray (9.3 PPG). Over the past two games, Murray is averaging 18.0 PPG and 2.0 SPG. He was outstanding against Los Angeles on Monday, scoring 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the floor and 5-for-8 shooting from three. If he can get hot in this one then there wonít be much that Los Angeles can do to win this one.