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Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) makes a move inside. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
March 28th, 2022
Say what you will about the play-in tournament (LeBron James certainly has), but the NBA’s postseason appetizer adds a little extra intrigue to games like tonight’s clash between the Denver Nuggets and Charlotte Hornets.
In years past both teams may have chosen to rest their top stars for an otherwise inconsequential non-conference game like this, but these two franchises are still desperately jockeying for position with just seven games remaining. The Nuggets are presently in sixth place in the West, just a game and a half above the hard-charging Minnesota Timberwolves. Another loss combined with a Wolves win could send them into the play-in tournament, where they would have two chances to win a single game to advance.
The Hornets, meanwhile, are in eighth place in the East, but are precariously close to the conferences’ ninth and tenth-placed teams, the Brooklyn Nets and the Atlanta Hawks. If they swap spots, they’ll have to win both of their games in the play-in tournament to advance. It’s an unenviable position, and it ensures the Hornets will come out with both guns blazing this evening.
The last time these teams met on Dec. 23, Charlotte came away with a convincing 115-107 victory. Kelly Oubre Jr. led the way with 23 points off the bench, including 14 in the final frame, to ice the win.
Nuggets vs. Hornets is set to tip off at 7 p.m. ET, and we have the three best player prop bets below.
Charlotte has the league’s eighth-best offense rating and the eight-worst defensive rating. That’s a huge chasm for a contending team, and although there’s plenty of blame to go around, much of it falls upon the sturdy shoulders of Mason Plumlee. The veteran center is posting the worst defensive rating of his nine-year career and is a big reason why the Hornets rank 19th in opponent points in the paint, 29th in points to opposing centers, and 30th in opponent second chance points.
NIKOLA JOKIC 🃏 30 PTS | 14 REB | 6 AST | 2 REC | 3 TAP pic.twitter.com/kQ0cVbgWEq— NBATime!! (@NBATime75) March 23, 2022
NIKOLA JOKIC 🃏 30 PTS | 14 REB | 6 AST | 2 REC | 3 TAP pic.twitter.com/kQ0cVbgWEq
Charlotte won’t be able to hide those deficiencies tonight when Nikola Jokic comes to town. The reigning MVP is averaging 26.3 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game, and is fresh off a monster outing against the Oklahoma City Thunder in which he dropped 35 points in 35 minutes. Jokic also got the best of Plumlee in their lone meeting earlier this season, scoring 29 points and holding Plumlee to just a single basket. Bettors should expect the same kind of dominant effort again this evening as Jokic continues his quest to win his second straight MVP trophy.
Wondering how Denver has been able to survive the season-long absence of Jamal Murray? Look no further than Will Barton. "Will the Thrill" has increased his scoring average by nearly two points per game and has bailed the Nuggets out repeatedly with his relentless energy and crafty shot creation.
Will Barton = Bucket GetterSeason high 31 for The Thrill‼️ pic.twitter.com/NLFBvLOZPO— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) February 25, 2022
Will Barton = Bucket GetterSeason high 31 for The Thrill‼️ pic.twitter.com/NLFBvLOZPO
The 31-year-old shooting guard is averaging 14.6 points per game this season and has been especially hot lately, scoring 17 points against Phoenix on Thursday, and 18 points against Oklahoma City two nights later. Barton has scored 14 points or more in 51% of his games this season, and should have little difficulty topping that total tonight against Charlotte’s porous D.
Aaron Gordon is many things. He’s a phenomenal athlete, an all-world dunker, and a surprisingly tenacious defender. One thing he’s not, however, is a knock-down shooter from beyond the arc. The Arizona alum is nailing just 31% of his 3-point attempts this season, and has been focused far more lately on doing damage within 10 feet of the basket, where he takes 52.7% of his shots.
In fact, Gordon hasn’t attempted more than four 3-pointers in a game in his last eight outings, and has only connected on two treys or more once in his last 14 games. Expect Gordon to continue to work close to the tin again tonight given his personal comfort level and Charlotte’s inability to protect the paint.
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