Lakers vs Nuggets: 2 Picks for NBA Opening Night

The 2023-24 NBA season tips off with Lakers vs Nuggets as Denver gets their rings. Can the Lakers play spoiler? Our betting expert has two picks as he makes his Lakers vs Nuggets prediction.

Lakers vs. Nuggets Odds

Lakers Odds +5.5
Nuggets Odds -5.5
Moneyline +180 / -215
Over/Under 228.5
Time Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Here’s everything you need to know about Lakers vs Nuggets on NBA Opening Night — our expert prediction and betting picks for today.

The Denver Nuggets stand alone atop the peak of the NBA world, and Tuesday night begins the title defense of their first NBA championship. But LeBron James and Anthony Davis have promised a revenge campaign that starts by knocking off the champs before they can even make it home with the ring.

The Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Conference Finals but did so by an average of just six points per game. The Lakers have said they “have the game circled” and are “looking forward to it” after Michael Malone made comments at the Nuggets’ parade.

Every opening night game is big; every ring and banner night game means a lot for the defending champs. But this one feels a bit more personal on both sides. Let’s bet Lakers-Nuggets to tip off the 2023-24 NBA season.

Lakers vs Nuggets Prediction, Picks

Let’s rewind to last postseason. The Nuggets beat the Lakers by 24 total points in four games in the playoffs, and Bruce Brown accounted for eight of those 24. He was crucial to lifting the Nuggets in the non-Jokic minutes in the conference finals with his defense and ability to race downcourt and finish in transition. Brown’s now a Pacer, having gotten more than Denver could offer in free agency.

Nikola Jokic dominated the playoff matchup, and Anthony Davis responded by working on his jumper to get it back where it was in 2020 when the Lakers won the title, notably with a three-month hiatus due to COVID. (Hey, didn’t the Lakers have a four-month offseason?) The Lakers are 4-3 since the bubble in the regular season vs. the Nuggets when Davis plays, but 0-2 SU and ATS in Denver.

These Lakers are better built to win the non-Jokic minutes than they were in the regular season or playoffs last year, and Denver is, at best, likely even with last year’s bench, though it’s genuinely hard for them to be worse. The staggered minutes with LeBron next to Austin Reaves and likely backup point guard Gabe Vincent, plus better wings, will provide James with a solid point guard whose defense is better than D’Angelo Russell’s and better shooting than they had last season with Taurean Prince, among others.

Meanwhile, Denver’s starting five not only holds more continuity and better experience together but is arguably the best starting five in the league. It will be imperative for the Lakers to find a lead after the first Jokic stint they can build on. You don’t want to be trying to make up ground into the second quarter only for Jokic to return and push the lead into the half.

The Lakers don’t have an ideal center to pair with Davis, so we’ll see a lot of the “Rui Strategy” from the playoffs, where Hachimura defends Jokic and Davis protects weakside. To be honest, it doesn’t matter. Jokic isn’t in great condition after a long offseason of needed rest. But he’s the best player on the floor at all times. Davis can win this matchup for a night, but the odds are not with him.

The margins are what matters.

The Lakers have a better, deeper, healthier team and the Nuggets have a more shallow rotation. The Lakers are motivated and focused; the Nuggets are easing in.

All that said, teams on ring night in the last ten years are 9-1 straight up and 7-3 ATS. Notably, the three ATS losses were all teams that had won titles in the last 10 years (Spurs 2014, Warriors 2017, and Warriors 2018).

I lean Lakers, but my projection makes this Nuggets -2.5 with average homecourt and -6.7 with Nuggets’ homecourt from last season. Since I’m not sure what homecourt looks like for a Nuggets team that’s a little worse, a little less experienced, and dealing with the emotions of ring night, I’ll pass on the spread. Instead, I do like two props.

The Nuggets largely ignored Austin Reaves in the conference finals, and he had a stellar shooting performance at 60% from 3 for much of the series. He’ll also stagger with the second unit and operate as a playmaker. Additionally, the Nuggets’ second unit will likely switch at a high rate and doesn’t have great rebounders.

All of this makes Austin Reaves over 22.5 points+rebounds+assists a best bet and my first pick for Lakers vs Nuggets on Opening Night.

The other: Nikola Jokic was absolutely bombing 3s in preseason. That may not carry over, but notably, Jokic challenged Davis routinely from deep in the playoffs. Jokic tends to shoot more 3s in games where he’s motivated. Spreading Davis out opens space under the basket, so he can’t protect the rim.

If I think the offense will be clunky, and it typically is in all teams’ first few games of the season, Jokic may need to help Denver catch up. So I’ll take Jokic 2+ 3s at FanDuel for +280. The over on 0.5 is heavily juice (-200), and while that’s safer, I think 2+ has the best value.

Lakers vs Nuggets Odds, Picks

I lean Lakers on the moneyline, but for all the talk of revenge from the Lakers, this Nuggets team gets up for big games, especially against the Lakers. Ring night history, the Jokic advantage, and a short line for a great home team led me away.

But I’ll take the over on Jokic 1.5 threes and Austin Reaves over 22.5 PRA to balance out the game script.

Pick: Austin Reaves over 23.5 points+rebounds+assists (-110), Jokic over 1.5 3’s (+280, FanDuel)