The Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors square off on Friday and are officially playing for, well, nothing on the final day of NBA regular-season bubble action. Both teams are locked into their respective playoff spots, with the Nuggets as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference drawing the Utah Jazz and the Raptors locked in as the No. 2 seed in the East and set to meet the Brooklyn Nets in postseason play.
With the playoffs slated to begin on Monday for both teams, and nothing to play for, it’s not expected that we’ll see much, if any, of the team’s core starters. The likes of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka have already been ruled out for the Raptors.
Meanwhile, there’s little reason for the Nuggets to play Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., or any other starters/top bench players at all on Friday.
Denver has chosen to make a few surprising decisions with the rotation through recent games, especially ones that mattered, so we could be hit with a surprise call in what would be a final tuneup for Jokic and company.
In turn, this situation creates an interesting betting spot, with the Nuggets currently sitting as the favorite, but it remains a bit of a toss-up as to which side of the bet is the route to go on the final day of the regular season.
Nuggets vs. Raptors Odds
The Nuggets are two-point favorites in this contest.
It wouldn’t have been surprising at all to see this game listed as a pick or to remain off the board until we hear the final word on the Nuggets and how they’ll deploy key starters. Even still, with Denver opting to make a few surprising decisions in previous games with their starters and the core of the second unit, we can’t put anything past head coach Mike Malone.
As things currently stand, you’ll want to evaluate the team’s second units and evaluate those positions before making a call on who to bet in this game. Fortunately, if you find the right side and the right spot, there’s a real opportunity for a great bet.
Nuggets vs. Raptors Prediction & Pick
As much as I love Raptors coach Nick Nurse and believe he’s far superior to Malone, it’s hard not to like the second unit of the Nuggets. When also factoring in that Denver appears to be leaving the door open to their starters playing at least for some stretch of the game, betting against them at -2 is a tough argument to make.
We’ll roll with the Nuggets here thanks to the potential that at least Jokic, Porter and possibly Paul Millsap see some action. But beyond that, Jerami Grant, Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig, PJ Dozier and fan-favorite rookie Bol Bol are going to make this a good spot for the Nuggets.
Denver’s second unit should have quite a bit of motivation as they all battle for minutes in the playoffs, and we could see a breakout performance from Bol against a depleted Raptors group.
If you’re unsure or not sold on the Nuggets’ second unit, it’s worth looking back at their matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers, a game which required a last-second Kyle Kuzma three-pointer for the Lakers to win. Denver’s backups played virtually the entire fourth quarter and most of the second half, yet still managed to nearly pull out a surprising victory.
Pick: Denver Nuggets -2