The Denver Nuggets are riding high on a five-game winning streak after knocking off the Los Angeles Clippers to take over the #3 seed in the Western Conference playoff standings. The Nuggets are the hottest team in the NBA right now thanks to the rapid development of rookie point guard Facundo Campazzo and the emergence of Michael Porter Jr. as a secondary scoring option behind Nikola Jokic.
The Nuggets (43-21) are now 9-1 since losing Jamal Murray to a season-ending knee injury and trail the Utah Jazz (46-18) and Phoenix Suns (46-18) by three games. They currently hold a half-game lead over the Clippers (43-22).
The Nuggets are +3500 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship, according to a recent update by DraftKings. Oddsmakers dropped the Nuggets to +4500 odds after they lost Murray. Once the Nuggets proved they could thrive without Murray, the Nugs saw their odds bump, but they’re still the eighth-highest team on the NBA futures board.
You can back the Nuggets at +1500 odds to win the Western Conference.
MVP Joker, MPJ, and Gordon
Before the Nuggets lost Murray, Jokic had the inside track to the NBA MVP. Without Murray, the Nuggets lost just once during a 10 game stretch. Jokic is now an overwhelming favorite to win the NBA MVP this season.
“We are winning games, but the offense hasn’t been pretty, yet it has been a top-five defense as of late,” said Denver head coach Michael Malone. “Jokic showed once again on the road against a good team why he is the front-runner for MVP. He puts the team on his back. That is what big players do.”
The Nuggets are thrilled to see Michael Porter, Jr. come into his own. Porter stepped up in the second half of the season prior to Murray’s injury. Since Murray blew out his knee, Porter averaged 25.6 ppg for the Nuggets. He set a career-high last week with 39 points against the Houston Rockets. He also knocked down eight 3-pointers during his big night. This season, he’s sniping at 44.3% from beyond the arc.
“Porter continues to develop his game and the whole bench has been stepping up and playing well,” said Jokic. “Everyone is bringing the energy that we need.”
No one was happier to get the heck out of Orlando than Aaron Gordon. The ex-Magic forward is averaging 10.8 ppg as a role player with the Nuggets. He’s seen an uptick in offensive production since Murray went down.
The Rise of Facundo Campazzo
Get used to hearing the name Facundo Campazzo while watching the Nuggets in the postseason. Malone tapped the rookie from Argentina to fill in for Murray. He cut his teeth playing pro ball in Spain, but now Campazzo starts for the Nuggets.
“I know it’s a big responsibility to be here, being a starter, dressing in this jersey, this Denver Nuggets jersey, and I will take that responsibility and do my best,” said Campazzo.
Campazzo averages 9.1 ppg for the Nuggets, which is a huge increase compared to his March output of 2.7 ppg. The rookie had one of his best games of the year against the New Orleans Pelicans when he scored a career-high 19 points and dished 10 assists.
On Deck: Lakers, Knicks, Jazz, Nets
The Nuggets have eight games remaining on their schedule, but only two games in the thin air of Colorado, where they’re 24-10 on their home court.
The Nuggets are still in Hollywood for one more night with a manic Monday meeting against the LA Lakers. LeBron James is finally back from a severely sprained ankle, but during his absence, the Lakers fell back to the #6 seed in the west. LeBron aggravated his ankle injury and could miss the Denver game tonight.
The Nuggets host Julius Randle and the New York Knicks on Wednesday. They have a tough road/home back-to-back this weekend with the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on Friday night before hosting Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday in Denver.
They end the season with a four-game road trip next week against the Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Portland Trail Blazers.