NBA Odds Preview: Healthier Nuggets visit Spurs

By: Michael Robinson | Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Kenyon Martin

Denver’s Kenyon Martin could make his season debut in San Antonio.

The Denver Nuggets could be in line for major reinforcements when they visit the red-hot San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

Denver (16-10 straight-up, 8-16-2 against the spread) is expected to get back point guard Chauncey Billups (wrist), power forward Kenyon Martin (knee) and backup center Chris Andersen (back).

Martin has been out the entire year, while Andersen has been sidelined since Dec. 3 and played just five games this season. Billups has missed the last three games, including a 113-112 home loss to San Antonio last Thursday.

San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili had the go-ahead bucket with 4.2 seconds left and then drew an offensive foul on Carmelo Anthony to secure the win. Denver backup point guard Ty Lawson had 15 points and seven assists, but he’ll go back to the bench with Billups’ return, despite playing well (18 PPG, 7.3 APG) in his absence.

The Nuggets did rebound with a 115-113 home win over Minnesota on Saturday, failing to ‘cover’ the 10 ½-point spread. They’re 2-7 ATS in their last nine games. The 128 combined points scored went just ‘over’ the huge 227 point total. The ‘over’ is 4-0-1 in Denver’s last five games.

Coach George Karl is happy to be getting healthier, but there’s still a big problem with Anthony. The 26-year-old superstar is on the trading block after making it clear he plans to leave the team as a free agent at year’s end.

Anthony leads the Nuggets in scoring at 24 PPG despite being banged up (elbow, thumb). They’re third in the league in scoring (107.3 PPG), but give almost all of it back on the defensive end (105.1 PPG, ranked 25th).

Getting defensive minded players back in Martin and Andersen will help. Martin can also provide veteran leadership for a squad in turmoil due to the Anthony situation.

The Nuggets have badly struggled on the road all season at 4-8 SU and 4-7-1 ATS. They’re well rested, but are only 1-3 ATS on three days rest or more. Those are all bad omens for Wednesday.

The Spurs (24-3 SU) continue to shock the NBA with the league’s best record. That wasn’t supposed to happen with a team expected to decline with aging stars like Ginobili (33) and Tim Duncan (34).

San Antonio has reinvented itself with a faster-paced offense averaging 106.8 PPG. That’s significantly higher than last year (101.4 PPG). The defense is allowing a respectable 97.7 PPG (ranked 15th).

The Spurs have a nine-game winning streak, last beating Phoenix 118-110 at home on Monday as 10 ½-point ‘chalk.’ They’re 0-3 ATS in their last three home games (9-8 ATS at home this season). The ‘over’ is 3-0 in the last three games and 16-11 on the season.

Guard George Hill (11.3 PPG) missed the last two games with a toe injury and has a good chance to miss the Denver game as well. Gary Neal took advantage of more minutes against Phoenix with 22 points.

Neal was an unknown talent playing in the Spanish League last year. Spurs management does a great job with player personnel, a big reason for their continued success. Coach Gregg Popovich has also done a great job keeping the starters’ minutes down, so there’s no reason fatigue should set in any time soon.

Denver won and ‘covered’ both games in San Antonio last year. The road team and underdog are on an incredible roll in this series at 9-0 ATS each. The ‘under’ went 4-0 last year, although the meeting this year went ‘over’ the 211 ½-point total.

Tip-off from the AT&T Center is at 5:30 p.m. (PT) and will be broadcast locally.

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