The Los Angeles Lakers (0-1) seek redemption against the Denver Nuggets (1-0) on Thursday night. They were down 20 points late in the 3rd quarter before cutting it to 3 points with 3:23 left in the 4th quarter. The Nuggets managed to hang on behind Jokic’s 34 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists. Can the Lakers even the series?
Check out below for Lakers vs Nuggets predictions, odds, trends, and starting lineups.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets Prediction
Prediction: Denver Nuggets 1st Quarter Winner (-158)
First, let’s look at first quarter general trends. For context, the 1996 Bulls own the largest regular season Net Rating ever at 13.4. That means Chicago outscored opponents by 13.4 points per 100 possessions.
During the regular season at home, Denver had a monstrous 13.4 Net Rating, and that’s only slightly fallen to 12.1 during the playoffs at home. On the other hand, Los Angeles owned a putrid -7 Net Rating on the road during the regular season, and that has plummeted to a horrific -15.7 mark on the road during the playoffs. These trends held in Game 1, as the Nuggets won the quarter 37-25.
Why is Denver so dominant in the first quarter? Because they are able to trot out their starting lineup for the majority of the minutes. The Murray-KCP-MPJ-Gordon-Jokic lineup achieved an 18.7 Net Rating across 384 minutes during the regular season at home, and they produced a 15.2 Net Rating across 21 minutes in Game 1. All of the pieces perfectly complement Jokic – the best player in the world. Caldwell-Pope and Porter Jr are lethal catch and shoot threats, Gordon’s timely cuts punish double teams, and Murray offers off the dribble scoring and playmaking. In terms of offensive cohesion and chemistry, it’s difficult to find a flaw.
Anthony Davis’ best defensive attribute is his help defense, but Jokic completely neutralized this since Davis couldn’t leave him. Plus, Jokic bulldozed Davis in isolation and on the glass. Los Angeles couldn’t help inside because Jokic always finds the open man; leaving these Nuggets shooters alone would be catastrophic from a shot quality perspective.
Los Angeles adjusted in the second half by having Hachimura defend Jokic and allowing Davis to roam. Hachimura’s length and mobility somewhat limited Jokic on the perimeter, but look for Denver to adjust by posting Jokic up more frequently where his size will overwhelm Rui. They can also remove Gordon from the dunker’s spot so that Davis won’t be inside the paint to aid Rui.
Meanwhile, Gordon is an excellent LeBron defender due to his strength, athleticism, and discipline. Caldwell-Pope can harass Lakers ball handlers, and Porter Jr’s quietly had a solid defensive season. If Los Angeles does start Hachimura instead of Russell too, they can sag off of him and reinforce the paint.
Overall, this Nuggets starting lineup has the tools to exploit Los Angeles’ to a much higher degree than the reverse. Given the home-court advantage too (where Denver has been nearly indestructible), it’s wise to back the Nuggets despite the juiced odds.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets Betting Odds
Denver enters this contest as a five and a half point favorite with a -208 moneyline. For Los Angeles’ +176 moneyline to have a positive expected value, the Lakers need to win here at least 37% of the time. The over is 7-2 in the last 9 meetings in Denver and 33-16-2 in the last 51 meetings.
- Lakers are 4-10-1 ATS in the last 15 meetings in Denver
- Over is 7-2 in the last 9 meetings in Denver
- Over is 33-16-2 in the last 51 meetings
Which teams will win the game-determining matchups?
Jamal Murray Efficiency
Jokic is the most consistent high volume scorer in the league, and Denver’s shooters rarely all miss open shots. Murray can have wild efficiency swings though, which creates plenty of empty possessions. When he’s converting, Denver’s offense is unmatched. If Murray maintains his Game 1 momentum, then the Nuggets should win the first quarter.
Free Throws & Fouls
The Lakers easily have the best free throw differential, which boosts their offense since free throws hold a high expected points per possession. Therefore, it’s imperative that Denver defends without fouling and simply forces Los Angeles to make shots. Plus, any of their starters getting into foul trouble early (Jokic especially) would force Malone to send in a substitute – this likely lowers their production. If the Nuggets don’t hand the Lakers free throws, then they have a great chance to win the first quarter.
Los Angeles Lakers Starting Lineup
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineups
Los Angeles Lakers Injuries: LeBron James (P), Anthony Davis (P), Mo Bamba (O)
Denver Nuggets Injuries: Collin Gillespie (O)