NBA Odds: Nuggets, Thunder in playoff preview

By: Michael Robinson | Monday, April 4, 2011

The Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder will meet in a likely first-round playoff preview on Tuesday night. Both teams made major trades at the deadline and have benefited greatly.

This 6 p.m. (PT) game from Denver's Pepsi Center will be broadcast locally. There are 13 contests on the docket after none on Monday due to college basketball’s title game.

The Nuggets (47-29 straight up, 40-32-4 against the spread) have won six straight games and are in fifth place in the Western Conference. They would open at Oklahoma City in the playoffs if the season ended today.

Coach George Karl’s team was 32-25 SU when it sent Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the Knicks for Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Anthony forced Denver’s hand and at the time it looked like New York was the big winner.

Fast forward to today and Denver is 15-4 SU and an incredible 16-2-1 ATS since the swap. All four of the SU losses were away.  Team scoring has dipped only slightly (106.6 PPG) compared to the season average (107.3 PPG), but it’s the points allowed that have plummeted (94.8 PPG vs. 102.6 PPG for the year).

Anthony (25.5 PPG) is one of the NBA’s leading scorers, but he gives up a lot on defense. Karl has his guys giving maximum effort defensively and playing unselfishly on the other end.

The Nuggets’ last game may have been their best. They went into Los Angles on Sunday and came away with a 95-90 win as 6 ½-point ‘dogs, snapping the Lakers nine-game winning streak.

The 185 combined points scored went way ‘under’ the 200 ½-point total. The ‘under’ is 4-0 in Denver’s last four games and 8-1 in the last nine.

The Thunder’s (50-26 SU, 39-36-1 ATS) big trade of Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to Boston for Kendrick Perkins wasn’t made out of duress like Denver’s. Instead, GM Sam Presti saw the physical center he needed and even signed Perkins to a long-term extension.

Presti’s posse has gone 14-6 SU (10-9-1 ATS) since the trade was announced. Perkins wasn’t available for the first 2.5 weeks due to a sprained left knee. He tore the ACL in his right knee in the NBA Finals and won’t be completely healthy under next year.

Perkins’ debut came March 14 at Washington and the Thunder are 8-3 SU (5-5-1 ATS) since. The 6-foot-10 pivot is averaging 5.8 PPG and 7.6 RPG in just under 25 minutes per game. His biggest contribution though is defense and team ‘D’ is at 95.1 PPG in the last 11 versus 100.9 PPG on the year.

Oklahoma City opened up this four-game trip with a 116-98 win at Phoenix last Wednesday. However, weekend losses and failures to ‘cover’ at Portland (98-91) and the L.A. Clippers (98-92) have the Thunder needing to finish this trip with a win.

Denver and Oklahoma City have had met twice this year, with the home team winning and ‘covering’ each time. The total points scored were 219 and 220, but that was before their respective roster makeovers and the new commitment on defense.

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook shot just 6-of 27 (22.2 percent) the last two games. He needs to play much better Tuesday to help out Kevin Durant (27.7 PPG).

Denver is the more balanced team offensively now with nine guys capable of scoring in double digits. Gallinari is averaging 15.9 PPG in the 10 games he’s played since coming over and Felton provides a nice spurt off the bench, backing up new starter Ty Lawson.

Denver’s Chris Andersen (ankle) and Arron Afflalo (hamstring) are both questionable. Oklahoma City is not reporting any significant injuries.

Oklahoma City returns home Wednesday to host the Clippers, while Denver flies to Dallas for a game the same night.

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