Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets Preview (5/16/23): Prediction, Starting Lineups, Odds

After a volatile start to the 2023 NBA Playoffs, we are finally down to the last four teams remaining: Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, and Boston. The Nuggets and Lakers will face off in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday night in an attempt to set the tone of the series early.

Take a look at our game predictions and betting picks with current odds below. Additionally, we have listed out the projected starting lineups and updated injury reports. Let’s get to it.

Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Denver Nuggets Betting Odds

Denver is a sizable six-point home favorite against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets have Collin Gillespie listed as out; he has missed the entire 2022-23 campaign. Surprisingly, Jamal Murray is still listed as questionable, but expect him to play in Game 1, barring any unexpected setbacks.

Meanwhile, the Lakers continue to have nearly all of their players in good health, with Mo Bamba being the only player who will be unavailable for this bout.

Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Denver Nuggets Prediction

It is crazy to think that the Los Angeles Lakers postseason started with a comeback win late in the fourth quarter of a play-in game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it did. After entering the 2023 NBA Playoffs as a play-in team (No. 7 seed), the Lakers find themselves in the Western Conference Finals against the No. 1-seeded Denver Nuggets and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who was not far from winning his third straight this season. Can they continue their improbable playoff run with yet another Game 1 road win, or will Denver set the tone and run away with another victory at Ball Arena?

The last time these two teams faced off in the playoffs was in the 2020 Western Conference Finals. Los Angeles ran away with the series, winning four out of five games against the Nuggets. However, Denver was a different team in many ways; it had a lot of youth and inexperience, and Jokic had not fully blossomed into the now two-time MVP he is today.

During the 2023 Playoffs, the Lakers have not been very good on the road, except for in Game 1s, where they have a net rating of +10.6 and are 2-0. However, in all road games combined, Los Angeles has a -8.1 net rating and has dropped all four bouts by double-digits. Which Lakers team will we get here?

Ultimately, expect a tight game, but Denver should pull it out in the end. The Nuggets have not lost (6-0) at home during the 2023 Playoffs, and it won’t start now. They are shooting 40% from three and have boasted an impressive +15.1 net rating in Ball Arena, only turning the ball over an average of 11 times per game during that span. Further, they rank second in overall rebounding percentage while allowing the third-lowest offensive rebounding rate to opponents.

Still, Los Angeles should keep it within seven points, as it has performed exceptionally well in Game 1s to this point; it is clear that the Lakers’ strategy is to steal the first game on the road and then win out at home. While the Lakers won’t succeed in grabbing a road win here, Denver certainly won’t blow them out.

Betting Trends

  • Los Angeles is 8-4 ATS in the 2023 playoffs.
  • Los Angeles is 2-0 in record and ATS in the 2023 playoffs in Game 1s.
  • Denver is 5-1 ATS at home in the 2023 playoffs.
  • The over record on the point total is 1-3 in the four games these teams have faced each other this season.

Key Matchups

Our key matchup in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals should be fairly obvious: Nikola Jokic versus Anthony Davis. See if Davis can limit Jokic with his unbelievably impressive defensive skillset or if Jokic will mow down AD, similar to every other big man in the playoffs thus far.

Nikola Jokic vs. Anthony Davis

Jokic has performed similarly in his past five games against Anthony Davis as he has in any other matchup in the past few seasons: he has been dominant. During that stretch, Jokic has averaged roughly 30 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists on 56% shooting from the field against Davis.

However, it should be acknowledged that Jokic did struggle a bit in his matchup against AD a few seasons ago in the 2020 Western Conference Finals; he finished with an average of roughly 22 points, seven rebounds, and five assists per game on 53% shooting. While those numbers are far from poor, the fact is simple: Jokic was outplayed by Davis. In that series, AD posted 31.2 points per game on a 54/33/91 shooting split. Further, his offensive rating of 131 was the best of any player in the series that started all five games.

Will we get the “2020 Western Conference Finals Anthony Davis,” the “two-time MVP Nikola Jokic,” or both in Game 1 of this series?

While we will see both players have their dominant moments, the Game 1 advantage will belong to Nikola Jokic. Jokic has grown substantially in every way as a player over the past three years, and his near-three-peat of NBA MVP is the only needed indication of this statement.

Throughout the 2023 Playoffs, Jokic has an impossibly strong net rating of +19 at home, boasting an offensive rating of 122.6 and a defensive rating of 103.6. In his past five of those six games, Jokic has posted averages of roughly 30 points, 15 rebounds, and nine assists on a 47/41/79 shooting split, with an uncharacteristic game against Minnesota being the sole outlier.

Meanwhile, Davis has been hit or miss on the road this postseason; he had an incredible Game 1 against Golden State and Game 5 against Memphis but has otherwise been below average in his other four road outings. Jokic gets a slight advantage here. Advantage: Joker.

Los Angeles Lakers Starting Lineup

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Jarred Vanderbilt
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis

Denver Nuggets Starting Lineups

PG: Jamal Murray
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Michael Porter Jr
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Jokic

Key Injuries

Los Angeles Lakers Injuries: Mo Bamba (Out)

Denver Nuggets Injuries: Jamal Murray (Q), Collin Gillespie (Out)

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Drew is one of the NBA Lead Writers at Lineups.com, specializing in betting content such as game predictions and player props. With a deep knowledge of players and prospects, Drew has an extensive edge in covering everything NBA.

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