NBA 2023/24: Momentum can carry the Nuggets to another title 1


Following their 140-88 victory over Golden State Warriors at the start of this month, Boston Celtics looked to be a banker bet to win the NBA championship.

It was their 11th victory in a row – a run which saw them defeat their opponents by an average of 22 points. Winning the title was a formality according to some pundits.

However, in the spirit of ‘all good things must come to an end’, the Celtics were brought back down to earth with defeats in their next two matches.

Although they quickly returned to winning ways, the manner of those defeats sent a worrying message to punters who have wagered on the Celtics to win the NBA crown.

While the latest NBA betting odds still list the Celtics as 9/4 favourites to clinch the title, those two results are a warning sign to anyone who thinks the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Allowing a 22-point lead to slip in the fourth quarter against Cleveland Cavaliers highlighted the Celtics’ penchant for struggling when the going gets tough.

This was a frustratingly familiar theme during their recent appearances in the play-offs and is an issue they do not appear to have fully eradicated.

It was on show again in their subsequent meeting with the Denver Nuggets, who kept their title rivals at bay on their way to a well-deserved 115-109 victory.

Although the Celtics won the final period on that occasion, the Nuggets appeared to be in cruise control with the victory in the bag after the first three quarters.

Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic produced a stellar display, bagging 32 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists to leave the Celtics trailing in his wake.

Subsequent victories over Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers got the Celtics back in the winning mood, but proved very little in the grand scheme of things.

Blowing inferior teams away during the regular season is all well and good, but the Celtics are yet to prove they can cope when the heat is truly on.

A quick look back at last season’s Eastern Conference Finals highlights that point to perfection, with the Celtics failing to defeat Miami in a seven-game series.

The Celtics recovered from a 3-0 deficit to tie things up, but were then defeated 103-84 in Game 7 despite having the luxury of home advantage.

While there are serious question marks over the Celtics’ title credentials, the same cannot be said about the reigning champions.

The Nuggets were worthy winners against Heat last season and their recent victory over the Celtics sparked plenty of excitement among their fans on social media.

Central to their hopes is Jokic, who is firmly on course to claim the MVP award for the third time. Leading the Nuggets, anointed the top pre-season contenders, to another title would be the perfect way to celebrate.

Jokic’s devastating mix of playmaking and scoring ability makes him unstoppable when he is in the mood, and he would relish going head-to-head with the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

The Nuggets have a strong supporting cast, with Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr, Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope logging big minutes for the team this season.

If their starting five steers clear of injuries, you would be hard-pushed to see how the Celtics could prevent them from winning back-to-back titles.

Their ability to step on the gas when the pressure is on gives them a vital edge over the Celtics, and is a factor which makes odds of 3/1 to win the title look extremely tempting.

Defending a title is never easy in any sport, but the Nuggets may well be the value bet in what promises to be a thrilling climax to the season.