Sam Coltrane explains why the Los Angeles Lakers are well-positioned to knock the Denver Nuggets out of this year’s NBA Championship race as the two teams meet in the Western Conference Finals.
The Los Angeles Lakers enter the playoffs with six days rest. Some basketball minds will tell you that amount of rest leads to rust and it is absolutely possible. Furthermore, Los Angeles has lost the opening game in both of their playoff series thus far.
The Denver Nuggets are scorching hot having upset the Los Angeles Clippers on their way to becoming the first team ever to come back from down 3-1 in the playoffs twice.
Between the Lakers rest and Denver playing great basketball, this bet is easy. Los Angeles takes game 1 and takes the series in 5.
Denver, fresh off an exhausting seven game battle with the Utah Jazz came out flat in their opener of the next series. Jamal Murray at the time did not realize they had a two-day turnaround. Thanks to the NBA scheduling, Denver will get an extra day of rest between the LA series’.
It simply doesn’t matter.
The Los Angeles Clippers collapsed. They gave up double digit leads in all three of the final games of the series, including a 17-point lead with only minutes remaining in the third quarter of what felt an indecisive game 5. The rest is history.
However, the way that history played out is important. Denver beat the Clippers by running Murray and Nikola Jokic pick-and-play over and over. The Clippers never could arrive at a reasonable solution. The Clippers best defenders are wings; too small to contain Jokic and unable to corral Murray.
The Los Angeles Lakers have a defensive-minded staff. Their best defensive player is capable of guarding bigs while maintaining some of the best “big-man” range in the entire NBA. Los Angeles will more than likely maintain two bigs on the floor to force Denver to match.
Jokic naturally plays at the elbow to open up his elite passing game. Anthony Davis will be on his hip. Danny Green will be chasing Murray around the perimeter alongside Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
It will be very hard for Denver to score in this series and will be even harder for Jokic and Murray because unlike the Clippers, the Lakers will be prepared for the two-man game and have the better personnel in the matchup than their proceeding LA counterparts.
All of that said, this series won’t be decided by Los Angeles defense against Denver. It will be decided by Denver’s defense against Los Angeles.
Lebron James is the best player in the NBA. He also is a nightmare for Denver. Who guards him? Jerami Grant? Maybe. Paul Millsap? Good luck. Michael Porter Jr.? I pity the kid.
Los Angeles will march out a lineup with James, Davis, and a conventional center. Denver doesn’t have the pieces to matchup. If they play big with a lineup of MPJ, Millsap, and Jokic, they will be giving a drastic athletic advantage to Los Angeles, the number two team in transition points this season, per teamrankings.com. If they go small, then Davis and James pick and rolls/pops will have limited answers and will still expose them to lobs to the Dwight Howard and Javale Mcgee center rotation.
This series isn’t about emotion. This series isn’t about momentum. This series is about personal and style.
The Los Angeles Lakers are the better team, they have the better player.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets Sportsbook Odds
Per Fanduel, the Los Angeles Lakers are currently -750 to win the series. The value isn’t there. However, there are value bets out there:
Los Angeles Lakers winning the series 4-1: +210
Los Angeles Lakers winning the series 4-2: +300
You can take both and still come out positive one way or the other. Personally, I believe Los Angeles wins in 5, but there is an arbitrage opportunity if you genuinely believe both of those are the most likely outcomes from this series.
Two other bets I like to kick-off the series are Los Angeles Lakers to win game 1 straight-up and the under. I expect Los Angeles will be a little rusty, especially among their rotational players. Denver will have tired legs even with the extra day of rest.
A parlay of the two turns a $100 bet into a $156.74 payout. Don’t overthink the talent divide and the personnel that make this series a bigger mismatch than Denver’s last. Take Los Angeles in either 5 or 6 games and look for Los Angeles to take a lead early in the series by holding Denver’s offense in check.