Thursday, April 4, 2024 at 10:00pm EDT, Arena, Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Clippers (47-28) are in a precarious position. With the playoffs looming, they desperately need wins to secure a top-four seed in the Western Conference. Fortunately, their schedule favors them over the final stretch, with six of their last seven games at home.

However, a significant dark cloud hangs over their prospects: Kawhi Leonard’s absence due to right knee soreness. Leonard is a perennial All-Star and the Clippers’ best two-way player. His presence on the court is a game-changer, and his absence creates a gaping hole in their lineup.

Pythagorean Theorem (PTS):

This method uses points scored and allowed to predict future performance. It’s a starting point, but doesn’t account for injuries or schedule strength.

  • Clippers PTS: (112.4 Off PPG)**^2 / (109.8 Def PPG) = 126.2 points per game
  • Nuggets PTS: (115.3 Off PPG)**^2 / (108.2 Def PPG) = 133.2 points per game

Strength of Schedule (SOS):

The Nuggets have arguably faced a tougher schedule than the Clippers.


No significant weather impact expected in Los Angeles.

My Prediction:

Based on the information above, the Nuggets appear slightly favored. Murray’s return (if healthy) could boost their offense. However, Leonard’s absence is a significant blow for the Clippers.

Here’s a combined prediction incorporating different factors:

  • Winner: Denver Nuggets
  • Score Prediction: Denver 112 – Los Angeles 107 (using a modified Pythagorean method considering injuries)

Final Pick:

  • Take the Denver Nuggets -3.5 spread based on the analysis and potential for a closer game than the standard spread suggests.

Nuggets Soaring: Eyeing Top Seed and Healthy Return

Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets (53-23) are surging. They boast a scorching 11-3 record in their last 14 games and are locked in a tight battle for the coveted number one seed in the West. While they’ve been without Jamal Murray, a key offensive weapon, his return appears imminent. Murray’s presence would further bolster a deep and talented Nuggets squad.

Deep Dive: Why the Denver Nuggets -3.5 Spread is the Shrewder Pick

Here’s a comprehensive analysis of key factors that make the Denver Nuggets -3.5 point spread the more attractive bet for tonight’s matchup:

1. Kawhi Leonard’s Absence: A Crippling Blow for the Clippers

Kawhi Leonard’s absence is undeniably the most significant factor. He averages 26.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but his defensive impact is even more crucial. Leonard’s ability to lock down opposing stars is a luxury the Clippers won’t have in this matchup.

While Norman Powell started in Leonard’s place against the Kings, he doesn’t possess the same two-way dominance. The Clippers’ overall defensive efficiency is bound to suffer without Leonard on the court.

2. Offensive Woes Without Kawhi

The Clippers’ offense has sputtered at times this season, even with Leonard healthy. They rank 14th in the NBA in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions). Without Leonard’s scoring punch and playmaking ability, the Clippers’ offensive production could grind to a halt.

3. Nuggets Poised to Exploit Mismatches

The Nuggets boast a potent offense, averaging 115.3 points per game (7th in the NBA). Nikola Jokic, the reigning MVP, is a matchup nightmare for most teams. Without Leonard, the Clippers might struggle to contain Jokic’s scoring and playmaking in the paint.

Additionally, Murray’s return would provide the Nuggets with another scoring threat on the perimeter. Murray is a dynamic scorer who can create his own shot and stretch the defense. His presence would force the Clippers to make difficult defensive decisions.

4. Strength of Schedule: Nuggets Battle-Tested

While the Clippers have enjoyed a relatively easy schedule lately, the Nuggets have faced a tougher slate. This battle-tested approach could prove advantageous as they face a Clippers team potentially out of rhythm due to recent road games and roster adjustments.

5. Psychological Edge: Momentum Matters

The Nuggets are riding a wave of momentum with their recent hot streak. They are playing with confidence and a winning attitude, which can be a powerful intangible in the playoffs. Conversely, the Clippers might be facing some uncertainty and frustration due to Leonard’s injury and a recent loss.

6. Home Court Advantage: A Mitigating Factor

Despite the Clippers having home court advantage, it’s important to consider the context. This is a late-season game, and the passionate Denver crowd might be a factor, especially if the game is close.

Conclusion: A Calculated Bet on Denver’s Superiority

While the Clippers boast a talented roster, the absence of Kawhi Leonard creates a significant void. The Nuggets, on the other hand, are a well-rounded team on the cusp of a top seed, potentially welcoming back a key player.

Considering these factors, the Denver Nuggets -3.5 spread offers a solid value bet. The Nuggets have the talent, momentum, and matchup advantages to overcome the Clippers, even in their home arena.

Pick: Denver -3.5