The sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers will perform before their biggest crowd of the season Thursday night when they host the third-seeded Denver Nuggets for Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round series in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The Blazers historically have boasted one of the loudest home environments in the NBA, but went just 20-16 there this year as pandemic-related restrictions limited them to just 1,900 fans (10 percent of capacity). Government and health officials negotiated a deal to allow 8,000 fans for the playoffs, so Portland will have a legitimate home-court advantage.
Tip-off is set for 10:30 p.m. ET from the Moda Center. The latest Nuggets vs. Blazers odds from William Hill Sportsbook list Portland as a 3.5-point favorite. The over-under for total points is 227, down 1.5 points from the opening line. Before finalizing any Blazers vs. Nuggets picks, be sure to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine's proven computer model.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned over $9,000 in profit on its top-rated NBA picks over the past two-plus seasons. The model is up almost $800 on its top-rated picks this season and entered the first full week of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on a stunning 99-66 roll on top-rated NBA picks against the spread dating back to last season. Anybody who has followed it has seen massive returns.
- Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers: Blazers -3.5
- Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers over-under total: 227 points
- Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers money line: Blazers -165, Nuggets +145
- DEN: The Nuggets are 10-4-1 against the spread in their last 15 playoff games as an underdog.
- POR: The Trail Blazers have covered five of the last six meetings in this series
Why the Blazers can cover
The Blazers have one of the most potent offensive attacks in the NBA, as evidenced by their fifth-ranked scoring offense (116.1 points per game) during the regular season. The offense was in fine shape even in the Game 2 defeat, as they shot 48 percent from the field and 16-of-33 (48.5 percent) from 3-point range.
Of course, the primary source of their offensive production came from star Damian Lillard, who scored 42 points and made nine 3-pointers while also dishing out 10 assists. Backcourt mate CJ McCollum added 21 points, but the veteran stars didn't get much in the way of help from their valuable role players. Versatile forward Robert Covington scored just three points in 37 minutes, while sixth man Carmelo Anthony notched five points in 21 minutes.
What's more, two years ago in the Western Conference semifinals, the Blazers won two of their three home games on their way to capturing the series in seven games. The sole home defeat came in four overtimes. Denver is also operating without Will Barton (hamstring), Jamal Murray (knee) and P.J. Dozier (groin), taking away a significant amount of experience in the backcourt.
Why the Nuggets can cover
Denver coach Mike Malone prefers his team to make its mark on the defensive end and, while the Nuggets ranked No. 8 in the NBA in scoring defense (110.1 ppg), inconsistency has been an issue with the defense at times.
This is in large part because the team lost Torrey Craig to free agency, while Jerami Grant was dealt to the Detroit Pistons before the season and Gary Harris was traded to the Orlando Magic early in the regular season. Those three formed the core of Denver's defense and their presence was clearly missed.
However, Aaron Gordon, who was acquired in the Orlando trade, showed in Game 2 why he could be the club's go-to defensive stalwart. After Lillard scored 32 points with eight 3-pointers in the first half, Gordon limited the Portland star to just 10 second-half points. As a team, the Nuggets have limited their opponents to 112 or fewer points in each of their last eight victories.
How to make Nuggets vs. Blazers picks
SportsLine's model is leaning over on the total, projecting the teams to combine for 229 points. The model also says one side of the spread hits in well over 50 percent of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.
So who wins Nuggets vs. Blazers? And which side of the spread hits well over 50 percent of the time? Visit SportsLine now to find out which side of the spread you need to jump on, all from the model that has crushed its NBA picks.