Bettors cash by
fading Nuggets

Feb 6, 2006 6:23 AM

The Denver Nuggets have hit a high point in Las Vegas betting — seven straight losses against the spread.

No, we’re not poking fun at Denver, merely stating a wagering fact. The worst thing in sports betting is mediocrity. Either win a lot or lose. The 50-50 stuff is frustrating.

Those who follow the NBA closely are making a good living these days betting against the Nuggets. Denver has had a recurring problem with injuries, notably to center Marcus Camby, who missed a month with a broken right pinky finger. Camby came back for a couple of games and was sidelined again for the Utah rematch. He did play in Saturday’s one-point win over Portland.

When Camby and his 16-point, league best 12.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game were out of action, Carmelo Anthony became the focal point on offense. Anthony, the NBA’s ninth top scorer at 25.4 ppg, has All Star numbers though questionable to make the elite team because of Denver’s 26-23 record.

With less than a full scoring deck, the "under" cashed in six straight Denver games until the last two outings. The defense had clearly struggled without Camby’s shot-blocking and rebounding presence underneath the basket, allowing 100 points or more in five of the last seven games.

Meanwhile, Denver had gone five straight without reaching 100 on offense until the victory against Portland.

For the season, the Nuggets have done well as a favorite (18-8 SU), but are awful as a dog (8-15).

When healthy, the starting five for head coach George Karl is solid. Andre Miller, Kenyon Martin and Earl Boykins complete a unit that each averages in double figures. However, Camby has played only 28 games, Martin 37 top reserves Voshon Lenard and rookie Julius Hodge just 12 and 11 respectively.

The Nuggets host Chicago on Wednesday and the league’s hottest team Dallas on Friday. The Mavericks were riding a 10-game winning streak as of last weekend. Maybe the best news is a five-day break for All-Star weekend, which begins Friday, Feb. 17.

Perhaps during the rest period, Denver can regroup and extend a two-game lead in the Northwest Division over both Utah and Minnesota. If the playoffs were held today, Denver would be a No. 3 seed with the top mark in the Northwest, despite having only the seventh best record in the conference.

So Denver fans have reason for optimism, even if Vegas bettors prefer the status quo. The latest odds at Caesars Palace has the Nuggets as a 40-1 choice to capture the NBA Championship, after opening the season at 12-1.