The Denver Nuggets overcame a 40-point performance from LeBron James to sweep his Los Angeles Lakers. It was the type of performance that has made Denver the rightful favorite to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy according to the NBA lines. Nikola Jokic, the two-time MVP, is playing at a historic level and Denver is firing on all cylinders.
The Nuggets are future NBA champions and here is why.
Joker’s Revenge: Jokic Is on a Mission
Jokic fell short of winning his third straight Jokic MVP award. That’s fine. The 28-year-old shrugged it off and proceeded to destroy his opponents in the playoffs. He’s posted a triple-double in seven of his last eight games. And for those knocking his scoring ability, he’s scored 30+ points in six of his last nine games.
A playoff run like no one has ever seen.
Congrats, Joker 🃏 pic.twitter.com/ZJpEbSMgXu
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) May 23, 2023
“There are certain guys in this league that play the game a certain way, a certain way that I like to play the game as well, and he’s one of them,” James told reporters during the press conference after Game 4. “He sees plays before they happen. There’s not many guys in our league like that.You already knew you was going against a beast once the series started…”
Indeed, Jokic is the main reason why the Nuggets have become lucrative NBA picks. Denver won both road games in Los Angeles as underdogs. The team improved to 9-6-0 against the NBA point spread (ATS) and have now made the NBA Finals for the first time.
All The Right Players at the Right Time
As dominant as Jokic has been, he can’t do it by himself. He was as great last season and Denver won one playoff game. But now, the team is healthier and better. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are active and Denver’s addition of key role players are paying off in a big way.
Jamal Murray aka “Maple Curry”
If Jokic is James, then Jamal Murray is his Kyrie Irving. Some fans have dubbed him “Maple Curry” as an ode to his Canadian background and sharpshooting skills. The former lottery pick did channel his inner Steph Curry in this four games against the Lakers.
Murray averaged 32.5 points with a 527/405/950 shooting line. He also added 5.3 assists and 2.8 assists with just 1.8 turnovers. In other words, he was unguardable. Denver is 6-1 when he hits the 30-point mark this postseason. As he continues to make NBA news, Denver’s chances of winning keep increasing.
Gordon, KCP, and Brown All Playing Pivotal Roles
But it’s also not just Jokic and Murray. Even James and Irving needed their supporting cast to step up. For Denver, everyone in the rotation is contributing. Aaron Gordon may not “wow” with his stats, but he’s evolved into a two-way force for Denver. The Nuggets are 15.7 points better when he’s on the floor. He’s only had two playoff games where he did not finish with a positive plus-minus.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has also embodied the “3-and-D” role. He’s hitting over two 3s a game at a 41.1%t clip. His familiarity with the Lakers also helped him pick them apart – he averaged 14.8 points and made 12 of his 27 3-point attempts.
And Bruce Brown has been a catalyst off the bench. Denver is 7-0 when he scores in double figures and shoots over 50 percent from the field. Coach Mike Malone keeps his bench rotation short. Brown gets the lion’s share of the minutes and is a big reason why this team has cashed as a bet online.
Denver Is at its Most Efficient at the Right Time
Most notably, Denver is playing like a well-oiled machine. Jokic has not only made the team better but Denver is also rebounding the ball with fervor – it leads the postseason in rebounding percentage (53.4%). With its hot shooting, relentless rebounding, and chemistry, the Nuggets cement themselves as chalk on the NBA betting odds.