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Friday Picks Preview Article


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Basketball Betting Analysis: Our Top NBA Picks for June 11

Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets
Friday, June 11, 2021 at 10 p.m. ET (ESPN) at Ball Arena in Denver

Denver's Offensive Limitations: Three-Pointers

In Game 1, Denver attempted 40 threes and converted 35 percent of them.

Game 2 witnessed a similar result with the Nuggets attempting 43 threes and making 32.6 percent of them.

Their three-point efficiency will not improve simply because they are at home.

This season, playoffs included, they are making .1% more of their three-point attempts at home than on the road. This difference is statistically insignificant.

The Sun perimeter defense deserves some credit because the Nuggets are attempting more tightly contested three-pointers per game than nearly every other team left in these playoffs.

But Denver also deserves some sympathy. Its best three-point shooters are either absent or hobbled.

Jamal Murray was a high-volume shooter who could create his own shot. In the regular season, before his season-ending injury, he attempted 6.6 threes per game and converted just over 40 percent of those attempts.

Michael Porter Jr. is a similarly high-volume shooter who made over 44 percent of his three-point attempts during the regular season. He is, however, battling back problems. He tweaked his back in Game 2 and this problem caused him to play only 13 minutes in the second half.

Will Barton attempted 4.6 threes per game during the regular season and made 38.1 percent of them. But Barton had been out April 23 before seeing 16 minutes on Wednesday.

Barton was a regular starter whose ability to play is limited in terms of how long he can play and what he can accomplish.

Limiting Nikola Jokic

Despite Denver's limitations from behind the arc -- limitations which would hurt even a healthy Nugget offense against the Suns' perimeter defense -- the Nuggets are relying heavily on the three-pointer.

Last game, for example, almost half of their field goal attempts came from behind the arc.

Denver needs to do extra well from behind the arc because it lacks alternatives.

Inside, the Nuggets primarily wants to score with reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.

But Jokic is struggling to score efficiently and struggling to run the offense.

These struggles were expected because Sun center Deandre Ayton did a consistently excellent job on Jokic during the regular season.

He was one of two players to limit Jokic to under 40-percent shooting and he is causing Jokic to be similarly inefficient during this series.

Ayton's ability to guard Jokic is significant not only because, by his efforts, Denver's leading scorer is limited in his scoring inefficiency, but also because it helps the entire defense.

Because Ayton guards Jokic one-on-one with great success, Phoenix does not need to invest double teams inside.

Help defenders will clog the paint, take away Jokic's passing lanes, and focus on limiting Denver's already encumbered efforts from behind the arc.

Jokic, who accrued 8.3 assists per game during the regular season, only has nine assists through two games and is failing to get teammates involved as well as he used to.

Phoenix's Offensive Balance

On offense, Phoenix distinguishes itself from Jokic-led Denver with balanced scoring and superior point guard play.

For example, Jokic was the only Nugget player last game to exceed 11 points. Phoenix had four players who exceeded 11 points.

Take a look at the following play to see why scoring balance is important:

In this play, you see two screens being set for Chris Paul.

Paul's penetration inside attracts Jokic, who loses sight of Ayton because he has to obstruct Paul's path to the basket.

Ayton easily rolls towards the basket where he encounters negligible resistance because Nugget defenders are pinned down by Phoenix's shooting threats in the corners, so that they are not in position to tag Ayton.

If the Sun defense were to collapse, then Ayton could pass outside to an open shooter. Unlike Denver, Phoenix is scoring a lot more points because its shooters -- Mikal Bridges, for example -- demand respect from deep.
Chris Paul continues to carve up the Denver defense. Double drag screens lead to a Deandre Ayton roll, and Paul dimes him with a clear path to the basket.
“Chris Paul continues to carve up the Denver defense. Double drag screens lead to a Deandre Ayton roll, and Paul dimes him with a clear path to the basket.”

The Verdict

Denver's offense is limited by its lack of three-point shooting and by Jokic's struggles against Ayton.

Defensively, Denver is helpless given its lack of competent rim protection and the fact that it must account for so many scoring threats both inside and behind the arc.

Lastly, note that playoff home teams coming off a double-digit defeat are covering the spread with just over 36-percent frequency since the 2016-2017 season.

Best Bet: Suns +1.5 at -108 with Heritage

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