Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Denver Nuggets Preview and Pick

Cleveland Cavaliers +1 (21-4) at Denver Nuggets -1 (17-8) O/U 197 10:30 PM ET Friday December 19, 2008 on ESPN
By Jason Green at

Tonight the white-hot Cleveland Cavaliers travel to Mile High City to play the Denver Nuggets. The Cavs are on fire, as they are 9-1 in their last 10 games and the Nuggets aint playing bad either being 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Cavs are running away with the Central Division, as they lead the 2nd place Pistons by 6 games, while the Nuggets are in 1st place in the Northwest Division only 1 game up on the Portland Trailblazers.

No huge shock that LeBron is playing well, but the reasons the Cavs are winning is that his supporting cast has been legit this year, which is some thing that can’t be said of the Cavs in the last few years, and their defense. The surprise play of Nene and the spark that Chauncey Billups brought to the team after coming over from Detroit is the reason the Nuggets are a serious threat in the Western Conference this season.


This season the Cavaliers are 8-4 on the road and the Nuggets are 9-3 at home.

Basketball Sportsbooks have the Nuggets as 1 point favorites with a total around 197. Even though the Nuggets are favored by a point they are posted at +105 as home dogs and the Cavs are posted at -125 as away favorites.,

The Cavs come into this game after crushing the Minnesota T-Wolves on Wednesday night 93-70. Surprise, King James was the high scorer in that game going for 32 points on 14/20 shooting. For the game the Cavs could not miss going 40/75 from the floor for a FG% of 53.3%. The Cavs played great D holding the T-Wolves to 29/71 shooting for a FG% of only 40.8%.

The Nuggets come into this game after losing the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night 108-96. The high scorer for the Nuggets in that game was Carmelo Anthony going for 22 points on 8/19 shooting. For the game the Nuggets shot 37/82 for a FG% of 45.1%. On defense the Nuggets took the night off allowing the Rockets to shoot 42/76 from the floor for a FG% of 55.3%.

Both teams are high scoring, as the Nuggets rank 4th in the league in scoring (103.4 ppg) and the Cavs rank 6th (102.3 ppg). The Cavs are the best defensive team in the league only allowing an average of 89.2 ppg, while the Nuggets only rank 16th giving up an average of 98.2 ppg. Cleveland is one of the best rebounding teams in the league having a rebounding differential of +5.2, while the Nuggets are at -0.6 rpg.

If you are betting on the Cavs this season, you are now probably in a higher tax-bracket, as the Cavs are an impressive 20-5 ATS this season and the Nuggets are 15-9-1. In terms of Over/Under games the Cavs are 13-15 and the Nuggets are 19-14.

On the injury front PG Daniel Gibson is Out and C Zydrunas Ilgauskas is Day-to-Day for the Cavs and PF Kenyon Martin and SF Carmelo Anthony are Day-to-Day for the Nuggets.

James is the early season MVP front-runner, as he ranks second in the NBA with 27.3 ppg and is the only player in the league that is averaging more than 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.

The Nuggets are 16-5 since they traded for Billups and they will look to avoid their first back-to-back loss since the trade tonight.

Billups has been good on offense, but it his defense, along with a healthy Nene, which is the reason the Nuggets are playing well, as last year Denver ranked 29th on D and this year are giving up 9 less points per game.

James will get his buckets, but the Nuggets will have to make sure Mo Williams (15.6 ppg), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (14.8 ppg), or Delonte West (11.8 ppg) do not have a big game.

The Nuggets also have to play good perimeter D, as Wally Szczerbiak is starting to drain the 3, which is something that he did not do when coming to the Cavs last year.

Billipus and Melo will have to score on a tough Cavs D and if Nene has a good game from inside it will open up the outside J for the Nuggets.

Ben Wallace will have to contain both Kenyon Martin and Nene and keep them from scoring and off the boards.

The Nuggets have not rebounded the ball well this season and if they give up a lot of 2nd chance points to the Cavs they will be in trouble.

The Nuggets can really show they are for real if they can beat the 2nd hottest team in the NBA, yeah I said 2nd, the Celtics have won 16 in a row!

Jason’s Pick: Cleveland continues its dominance tonight.