Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 1: Will Denver Remain Dominant at Home?

Austin Wang previews how to bet Lakers vs. Nuggets, including updated odds, picks and predictions for Tuesday's NBA Playoff game.

Lakers vs. Nuggets Odds

Lakers Odds +6
Nuggets Odds -6
Over/Under 222.5
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The déjà vu is kicking in, as the Los Angeles Lakers face the Denver Nuggets in a rematch of the 2020 “Bubble” Western Conference Finals.

In that series, the Lakers were the No. 1 seed and beat the Nuggets 4-1 en route to their 17th championship as a franchise. The tables have now turned — the Nuggets come into this series as the top seed and boast a more experienced and talented team than three seasons ago. Nikola Jokic has since won two MVP awards and appears ready to add a championship to his resume.

The Lakers had a tumultuous start to their season, but have been resilient and fought their way to this position with their stifling defense. They have the league’s best Defensive Rating (106.5) in these playoffs, while the Nuggets have the No. 1 Offensive Rating (118.7), per NBA Advanced Stats. Which one will prevail?

Here’s a preview of Nuggets vs. Lakers Game 1, plus my betting pick on the spread and total.

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Los Angeles Lakers

It is surprising that the Lakers have made it this far given their regular season performance. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both missed a large chunk of the season with injuries, and they made a huge midseason revamp to their roster. They were playing from behind all season long but made a strong second-half push.

Their success will bank on Davis’ health. He has been incredible on both ends of the court, and his length is one of the few ways the Lakers can neutralize Jokic. He has strung together four consecutive strong efforts, which breaks his streak of alternating good-and-bad games. His consistency will be needed against a tougher opponent in the Nuggets.

The Lakers should have an advantage with their interior scoring. During the regular season, they were sixth in points in the paint while the Nuggets were 21st in points in the paint allowed. The Nuggets are less foul-prone team than the Warriors, so don’t expect as many free throws as the previous series.

The Lakers have won and covered in all six home playoff games, but they are only 2-4 SU and ATS away from Arena. They are not the same team on the road, and will be detrimental against one of the best home teams in the league.

Denver Nuggets

Jokic said he did not care about not winning MVP, but his level of play is stating otherwise. He is averaging an astounding 30.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game in this season’s playoffs. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers approach guarding the big man.

The Nuggets are an excellent rebounding team — they boast a league-leading 54.1% rebounding rate, per NBA Advanced Stats. They are first in rebounds allowed in the regular season and the playoffs. This will limit the Lakers from getting second-chance points.

Also, the Nuggets are an incredible 40-7 straight up and 30-16-1 ATS at home this season. They are 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS in the playoffs. These two teams split their regular season series with both teams winning at home. Their last matchup was on Jan. 9 but neither James nor Davis suited up.

Jamal Murray is listed as questionable for Game 1 on Monday; however, he was also listed as questionable in Game 6 against the Suns and ended up playing. With four days of rest, he should be recovered and in condition to play.

Lakers-Nuggets Pick

I’m going two ways here. First, don’t overthink it. The Nuggets have been dominant at home all season long while the Lakers have struggled on the road. Also, I think there will be a let-down for a road team after a long, grueling series. I personally think Murray will play and I’ll be backing the Nuggets against the spread up to -6.

In addition, I also think it will be a high-scoring game. After these long series, defense tends to be an afterthought in these Game 1s. Also, the teams aren’t as familiar with one another just yet and haven’t had the opportunity to make defensive adjustments. Their previous three matchups had the following total scores: 231, 234 and 231.

Home teams in Game 1 after winning a series that went six or more games have gone 29-11 to the over since the 2009-10 season, per the SDQL at Gimme the Dog. Even though the defense is better, and pace is slower in the playoffs, I think this game goes over the total of 222 (up to 223).

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