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Saturday NBA Betting Preview: Who takes Game 1 in Phoenix-Denver mega showdown?

Credit: Phoenix Suns

Just like in March Madness, we saw upsets. Just like in March Madness, we saw chalk.

The NBA playoffs might be structurally different than the NCAA basketball tournament. To advance, a team has to have the talent, endurance and smarts to win a seven-game series. But similar developments still played out between both formats.

We saw a No. 8 seed (Miami Heat) upset a championship favorite (Milwaukee Bucks). We saw another championship contender (Denver Nuggets) breeze through their opponent (Minnesota Timberwolves). We saw a top-heavy team (Phoenix Suns) unseat a team plagued with injuries (LA Clippers). We saw one team with star power and depth (New York Knicks) beat up on another team with star power and depth (Cleveland Cavaliers).

All of that sets up some interesting second-round playoff matchups.

But let's start with Game 1 Saturday night in Denver, where the West-best Nuggets host the trendy Phoenix Suns.

Lines are presented by our friends at Betfred Sportsbook:

Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, TNT)

Spread: Denver (-3)

Over/Under: 227

The Suns dispatched the Nuggets in the playoffs two years ago, leaving Denver with an inevitable “what if” feeling. What if Jamal Murray didn’t injure the ACL in his left knee at the end of the regular season? Of course, the Suns would counter that the Nuggets still had the NBA’s MVP (Nikola Jokic) to offset the difference. But the Suns overwhelmed them with a Hall-of-Fame point guard (Chris Paul), a lethal scorer (Devin Booker) and a developing young big man (Deandre Ayton).

Following their loss to Milwaukee in the 2021 NBA Finals, the Suns underachieved last season with a second-round flameout to Dallas. This season, the Suns appear primed toward another Finals appearance after acquiring the NBA’s most dominant scorer leading into the trade deadline (Kevin Durant).

The Nuggets still have something that the Suns lack: plenty of depth and continuity.

Jokic has remained an MVP candidate. Murray has returned fully healthy. Same thing with Michael Porter Jr. Meanwhile, Phoenix has struggled to find consistent rotations around their star players after dealing its prized wing defender (Mikal Bridges) as part of the Durant trade. The Suns may appear fully rested after dispatching an injury-ravaged LA Clippers team in five games in their first-round matchup. Given that Durant, Booker and Paul have all dealt with injuries this season, however, Phoenix could become fragile as the series prolongs.

At least for Game 1, though, the Suns’ top-heavy talent should prevail.

Despite its limited time together, Phoenix has experienced minimal personality and strategic conflicts with adapting to Durant’s arrival. That reflects positively on Durant’s skillset and demeanor as well as how Booker, Paul and Ayton have amicably adjusted their roles.

Final score prediction: Suns 122, Nuggets 114

Betting Pick: Suns +3

Mark Medina is a veteran NBA reporter who will be contributing to Aaron Torres Online and Aaron Torres Media throughout the NBA playoffs - follow him on Twitter @MarkG_Medina

To get full odds on the entire NBA Playoffs visit Betfred Sportsbook

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