In a Western Conference Finals rematch, the Denver Nuggets (35-16) battle the Los Angeles Lakers (27-25) this Thursday (2/8/24). Get Nuggets vs. Lakers moneyline and spread odds, as well as predictions, starting lineups, injuries, and key matchups below.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers Prediction
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are questionable, but them being available is factored into the best bet.
During the first quarter, Denver outscores opponents by 12.9 points per 100 possessions, while Los Angeles is being outscored by 9.3 points per 100 possessions. Those marks rank 2nd and 27th, respectively (via NBA.com). It’s also a terrible matchup for the Lakers too.
Los Angeles surrenders the most wide open three-point attempts per game, which is a death sentence against Denver’s starting lineup. Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Michael Porter Jr combine for a 39.7 3PT% on nearly 17 attempts per game.
Although the Lakers give up a ton of threes, they at least lock down the paint due to Anthony Davis…that is unless Nikola Jokic steps onto the court. During their playoff matchup, Jokic decimated Davis to the tune of 27.8 points per game on elite 50/47/77 shooting splits. In their rematch on October 24th, Jokic dropped a 29-point triple-double on a 54.5 field goal percentage.
If the Lakers cannot stop Jokic in isolation and bleed wide open threes, then how are they slowing down Denver’s offense?
Meanwhile, the Nuggets surrender the seventh lowest field goal percentage within eight feet of the basket, which is where the Lakers thrive. Aaron Gordon remains one of the few forwards with the strength to absorb and stonewall contact on James’ drives, while Davis has no chance of moving Jokic in the post. Additionally, Caldwell-Pope can apply a tremendous amount of on-ball pressure against D’Angelo Russell or Austin Reaves, thus diminishing their off-the-dribble scoring.
Overall, I expect Denver to cruise in the first quarter, so it’s surprising to see a -0.5 line here.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers Prediction: 1st Quarter Nuggets -0.5 & Moneyline
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Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers Best Odds
Denver is favored by three points, but they own an ugly 18-25-2 record against the spread as favorites. On the other hand, the Lakers are 11-11 against the spread as underdogs. For Los Angeles’ +130 moneyline to be profitable in the long run, they need to win this game at least 43 percent of the time.
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
Los Angeles Lakers Starting Lineup
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers Injuries
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is probable after leaving the Portland game early due to a hamstring injury. Veteran forward Vlatko Cancar remains sidelined though.
Los Angeles lacks Cam Reddish, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Gabe Vincent, while LeBron James and Anthony Davis both hold questionable tags.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers Key Matchups
Turnovers & Free Throws
Because it’s likely that Denver is more efficient from a points per possession perspective, it’s imperative that the Lakers win the possession battle. Unfortunately, they rank 21st in turnover percentage, which represents a huge roadblock. If they do not cut down their mistakes, then it will be a long night for the offense.
Securing more free throws would also be a boon for Los Angeles because of their inherently high expected points per possession. They tag key players with fouls too, thus forcing them to the bench earlier than expected. The Lakers easily lead the NBA in net free throw attempt rate, while Denver ranks 25th. This area will be a key X Factor for Los Angeles.