Lakers vs. Nuggets Series Odds, Props, & Matchup Preview

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Lakers vs. Nuggets Series Odds, Props, & Matchup Preview

After a victory in the play-in tournament, the Los Angeles Lakers will now face the reigning champion Denver Nuggets in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Game one of the series will tip off in Denver on Saturday. 

Denver swept Los Angeles last season in the Western Conference Finals, part of eight straight it has won against the Lakers entering this series. However, it’s always difficult to count out LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Can the Lakers find a way to defeat the Western Conference favorite in NBA Finals odds? Or will the Nuggets once again steamroll them?  

Lakers vs. Nuggets series odds

Denver is a heavy favorite to win this series per online sportsbooks. The Nuggets’ -420 odds equate to an implied probability of nearly 78%, and the shortest odds for the exact series score is 4-1 Nuggets at odds of +230. Plus, sportsbook lines have the series only taking five games as the favored option. 

Lakers vs. Nuggets game 1 odds

The Nuggets outscored opponents by 10.1 points per 100 possessions at home this season, and they had a 10-1 record last postseason at home. The altitude gives them an advantage, but Denver’s role players also shoot far more efficiently in their own arena. All told, the Nuggets are favorites in game one of this series. 

Lakers playoff preview

Despite being 39 years old, LeBron James remains an All-NBA talent who continues to have an all-around impact. Factor in Anthony Davis’ two-way dominance, and Los Angeles’ stars have a chance to match up with anyone. Meanwhile, D’Angelo Russell played at a fringe All-Star level for the second half of the season, which completely changes the Lakers’ ceiling. Since Jan. 1, Russell has averaged just over 20 points per game and six assists per game on 59% true shooting. 

Davis’ defense in particular could be crucial this series. Nikola Jokic decimated him last postseason by averaging a hyper-efficient 28 points and 12 assists per game. If Jokic approaches those numbers again, then it’s unlikely that Los Angeles has the firepower to keep pace with Denver.  

Lakers’ biggest strength 

Davis and James both finished in the top four in the NBA this season in restricted area field goal attempts per game. The duo also ranked third and eighth, respectively, in the rim shot making metric, which adjusts efficiency with degree of difficulty. Due to Davis’ and James’ interior brilliance, Los Angeles averaged the second most points per game in the paint

Their shot profile also consistently rewarded the team with free throws, as the Lakers were second in free throw attempt rate. That’s crucial because it provides an easy source of offense. For example, a trip to the line produces 1.6 expected points for an 80% free-throw shooter. In comparison, a 54% 3-point shooter produces 1.62 expected points per attempt from deep. Plus, free throws tag opponents with fouls, thus potentially sending them to the bench early. Overall, Los Angeles’ foundation revolves around interior scoring. 

Lakers’ biggest weakness 

Although Davis locks down the paint, the Lakers often struggle to defend the perimeter. They surrendered the most wide-open 3-point attempts per game and the second-most points per possession off screens. Jamal Murray and company ruthlessly hunted Russell in their matchup last year, and they likely will pursue this course once again. Austin Reaves has morphed into a defensive liability, too, and Gabe Vincent’s Heat defense did not translate. If Los Angeles loses in the first round, its lackluster perimeter defense may be a massive reason why. 

Nuggets playoff preview

Nikola Jokic is the ultimate floor-raiser who generates elite shot quality for teammates via his all-time playmaking and formidable scoring threats. Jamal Murray’s self-created scoring and fluid off-ball game complements Jokic, and they run a devastating pick-and-roll together. Both excel in the playoffs, too, as they are two of the six players in NBA history (minimum 10 games) to average at least 25 points, six assists, and five rebounds during the playoffs. 

Denver finished fourth in both net rating and net effective field goal percentage behind its star duo. Both marks are strong indicators of being a true championship contender. Online sportsbooks have the Nuggets as the second favorite to win the championship behind only Boston, but they face a potentially brutal path through the West. 

Nuggets’ biggest strength 

Denver’s starting lineup outscored opponents by an immense 13.6 points per 100 possessions this year. It helps to have Nikola Jokic as the pillar, but the pieces also fit perfectly together. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. space the court for the stars, and Aaron Gordon wreaks havoc from the dunker’s spot as a lob and put-back threat. 

Defensively, Caldwell-Pope smothers the top ball handler, and their massive frontcourt neutralizes any length. Plus, Gordon is an elite isolation defender with plenty of positional versatility. The Nuggets control the glass, too, which allows them to frequently win the possession battle. Due to its lineup’s consistent dominance, Denver led the league in clutch net rating. Late-game execution has the potential to be a massive weapon for the Nuggets this postseason. Overall, the only team that has an equally impressive starting lineup is Boston, and even the Celtics may not stack up to Denver. 

Nuggets’ biggest weakness 

Sixth man Bruce Brown departed last offseason for Indiana, which was a blow to Denver’s depth. He initiated the bench offense, shot well from three, and defended numerous roles at a high level. 

Christian Braun has absorbed some of Brown’s duties, and the Nuggets are leaning more on veteran Reggie Jackson. However, their reserves are underwhelming compared to some of the other benches in the Western Conference. Peyton Watson could be huge for them if his shot starts to fall because of his excellent wing defense. Fortunately, Jokic can carry an entire offense on his back, so Denver’s depth issues may not matter as much as they probably should.