Denver Nuggets (3-2) at Minnesota Timberwolves (3-1)
Target Center, Saturday, Oct. 30, at 9 p.m. EST
Because my sports betting algorithms assess performance against the spread, and it’s still so early in the 2020-21 NBA season, I don’t see a lot of great betting opportunities tonight. However, I think the Denver-Minnesota game is an exception.
The last time the Timberwolves beat the Nuggets was on April 11, 2018. During that 11-game stretch, Denver was 9-2 ATS and won by an average of 8.7 points. True, Minnesota was not a very good team during that time, missing the playoffs every year (to be fair, the Wolves have qualified for the postseason just once since 2003-04), but that’s still an impressive run.
Tonight, the Nuggets travel to the Land of 10,000 Lakes after blasting Dallas out of Ball Arena (formerly known as the Pepsi Center), 107-75. It was the fewest points scored by the Mavericks since March 2017.
Minnesota appears to be much improved since the last time these teams met — both Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns are playing as well as they ever have — but the words “Timberwolves” and “favorite” seem as incongruous as “Jenna Jameson” and “modest.” Yet, that is precisely the situation in tonight’s contest, as Minnesota has been made a 2-point favorite.
Why is Minnesota favored?
At first glance, the reasons for this seem solid.
I already noted that Minnesota appears to be a better team this year than in years past — perhaps many years past. In addition, Denver has some health issues, as star center Nikola Jokic was a game-time decision against Dallas (sore knee). Add to that back-to-back games and Minnesota’s propensity to push the pace, and you can see why many bettors believe the Nuggets are walking into a minefield on Saturday night.
I’m not one of them.
No rest for the non-weary
Yes, lack of rest is a real phenomenon in the NBA. In my last article, I referenced a study by researchers at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which found that lack of rest was worth about 0.3 points, approximately 10% of the overall home-court advantage observed in the NBA.
But this game offers a case study as to why statistics need to be kept in context. I would argue the Nuggets are well-rested. To begin with, that game against Dallas was Denver’s first since Oct. 26. Second, the Nuggets led by 10 points at halftime and by 31 at the end of three quarters, allowing Denver’s head coach, Michael Malone, to bench his star players early. Every Denver starter played less than 30 minutes.
It gets better.
Over the past two seasons, the Nuggets were 9-5 in road games on one days’ rest — that’s a better win rate than they had on the road overall (42-31, 57.5%).
Turning to my Bet Ratings, which evaluate a team’s performance against the spread, we find that visiting teams with a figure of 1.75 or greater win about half the time, with a ~10% ROI on the money line, when slight underdogs like Denver tonight. They win about 55% of the time ATS.
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I prefer the money line approach for the simple reason that, since 2013, the winning margin in this match-up has exceeded a point 28 times in 29 games. So, why take -110 when you can get +105 or even +110?
This game looks good to me from the standpoint of traditional handicapping (I suspect too much is being made out of Denver’s quick turnaround) as well as my numbers. Denver looks like a solid choice on the money line if you can get +105 or better.
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