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Denver Nuggets Futures On The Move

Perhaps no team in NBA history has had such an impressive winning streak more overlooked than the Denver Nuggets. They entered Monday’s game at New Orleans having tied a franchise record – from the team’s ABA days – with 15 straight wins but lost to the Hornets, 110-86. Yet that’s not much talked about with the Miami Heat’s 26-game winning streak.

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The book has taken notice of Denver, however. The Nuggets have now leapfrogged both the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers on odds to win the Western Conference and NBA Finals. George Karl’s team is 14/1 to win its first NBA title – behind only Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City -- and 5/1 to win the West.

The winning streak has catapulted Denver into the No. 3 spot in the West, although barely ahead of the Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. Getting home-court advantage for at least one round of the playoffs is vital for the Nuggets as they are 32-3 at home (tied with Miami for best home record) and just 17-20 on the road. Playing in that thin air also is a big advantage.

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Many wonder whether Denver is an NBA championship-caliber team because it doesn’t have a true superstar. Really only one team in the past 40 years has won it all without a true star: the 2004 Detroit Pistons. What Denver has is perhaps the deepest and most athletic roster in the NBA. During the winning streak, seven players averaged at least 10 points per game, with point guard Ty Lawson leading the way at nearly 20 per. Three players average at least six assists.

Easily the most improbable win of the streak came last Thursday against Philadelphia. The Nuggets trailed by five points with 15 seconds left and by eight with 2:07 remaining but won 101-100. It was the first time Denver trailed by at least eight with 2:07 or less remaining and won since Nov. 2, 1997. That happened to be the first regular-season game played at Denver’s Pepsi Center. The Nuggets haven’t been great against the spread of late. They covered the first 11 games of this winning streak but have failed to in three of the past four. Denver has played the past two without starters Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler.

Even though Denver lost to New Orleans on Monday, the team still has a big-time challenge on Wednesday at San Antonio. The Spurs are 30-4 at home, have All-Star point guard Tony Parker back from injury and will have been off since Sunday. The Spurs beat the Nuggets by 26 earlier this season in San Antonio.

The Spurs also host the Heat on Sunday in what is the toughest remaining game on Miami’s schedule as the Heat look to break the 1971-72 Lakers’ record winning streak of 33 consecutive victories. Miami will certainly be tested Wednesday night in Chicago, although the Heat won there 86-67 on Feb. 21. It was the fewest points scored by Miami in a win this season and was the Heat’s ninth straight victory at the time.

Could Wednesday be the game in which Derrick Rose makes his season debut for Chicago? There will be live play-by-play betting at the book. It’s starting to look less and less likely that Rose will play this year as the Bulls have just 13 regular-season games remaining. Rose continues to be called “day-to-day” as he works his way back from ACL surgery. The Bulls are hopeful to have Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli back for Wednesday’s game. Noah has missed the past two games with a foot injury and Belinelli sat out Sunday with an abdominal strain. Rose is being called a long shot to play.

If the Bulls want Rose to debut at home, their only other chance this week would be Sunday against Detroit. Chicago doesn’t play again at the United Center until April 5.

Also available for live betting early this week is Knicks at Celtics and Clippers at Mavericks on Tuesday, and Nets at Trail Blazers on Wednesday. New York has been great for its backers of late in covering five straight games despite playing all of them without reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. He’s questionable to return against Boston.

Kenyon Martin, essentially signed off the street, has been terrific lately in place of Chandler. He totaled 37 points and 18 rebounds in back-to-back wins over the Toronto Raptors this past weekend. Toronto is falling apart, having lost four straight (0-4 ATS). Things aren’t likely to get better as the team could shut Rudy Gay down for the season. He has a back issue and there’s really no reason for the Raptors to risk serious injury with the team playing out the string. Gay is averaging 19.9 points and 6.3 rebounds since being traded to Toronto from the Grizzlies in January.

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