July 22 teams entered the NBA bubble in Orlando, and now four remain. The Los Angeles Lakers have looked like the No. 1 seed as they should in their 10 playoff games, winning eight. The Denver Nuggets are the first team in NBA playoff history to come-back from two 3-1 deficits to win their series. In short, we have what could be considered a “David-and-Goliath” type story unfolding in the NBA Western Conference Finals.
Visit our NBA sportsbook before the series to place your bet on the series winner. On our NBA Locker Room page, you can find individual game break-downs throughout both series to give you betting advice for each of the NBA playoff games remaining.
Western Conference Finals Schedule
- Game 1: Friday, Sept. 18: Lakers vs Nuggets, 6:00 p.m. ET – ESPN
- Game 2: Sunday, Sept. 20: Lakers vs Nuggets, 4:30 p.m. ET – TNT
- Game 3: Tuesday, Sept. 22: Nuggets vs Lakers, 6:00 p.m. ET – TNT
- Game 4: Thursday, Sept. 24: Nuggets vs Lakers, 6:00 p.m. ET – TNT
- Game 5*: Saturday, Sept. 26: Lakers vs Nuggets, 6:00 p.m. ET – TNT
- Game 6*: Monday, Sept. 28: Nuggets vs Lakers, TBD – TNT
- Game 7*: Tuesday, Sept. 30: Lakers vs Nuggets, TBD – TNT
Head-to-Head 2019-20 Regular Season
The Lakers and Nuggets met four times. The Lakers won three, with their only loss coming on a night LeBron James did not play. Although the Lakers won the season-series, their three wins were by nine points or less.
8/10: LAL124 – DEN121 (DEN +5.5 O 224)
The most recent game took place in the Orlando bubble. The Nuggets spread their minutes amongst 10 players in a game that came down to the wire. Lakers F Kyle Kuzma hit the go-ahead “3” 0.4 seconds left to seal the victory. LeBron had 29 points and 12 assists in 38 minutes. It was the Lakers’ third and final win in the seeding games. The biggest story here is how the Nuggets’ bench outplayed the Lakers throughout.
2/12: DEN 116 – LAL120 (OT) (LAL -3 O 220.5)
This matchup in Denver was the last game before the All-Star break for both teams. At the time the Lakers were the No. 1 seed and the Nuggets the No. 2 seed in the West. LeBron posted his 12th triple-double of the season (32 PTS, 12 REB, 14 AST). Anthony Davis had 33 points and 10 rebounds to help the Lakers edge the Nuggets in overtime. Nicola Jokic also had a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Jamal Murry was his normal high-scoring self, dropping 32 points with 10 dimes.
12/22: LAL104 – DEN128 (DEN +2.5 O 209)
A few days before Christmas, Denver traveled to Los Angeles and beat-down the LeBron-less Lakers. The Nuggets played all 13 players on their roster and six of those ended with a double-digit scoring night. Compared to the Lakers who only had two players reach double figures. Although LeBron will most-likely not win the MVP award, his value to his team is irreplaceable.
12/3: DEN 96 – LAL 105 (LAL +2.5 O 208)
Davis and James scored 25 points each to help the Lakers win their 18th game. Denver struggled from the field, shooting 40.7%. Murray had 22 points and Paul Millsap added 21. Neither team shot more than 30% from “3” in a game that was seven points under the total.
Lakers’ Breakdown and Keys to Victory
The Lakers are in championship-or-bust mode, with the best player in the world, James leading the charge. The pressure is all on LeBron, which is nothing new to the all-time leader in playoff wins). LeBron is on a quest for his fourth ring and to cement his name as one of the greatest players to play the game.
You can see below how the Lakers dominated the Rockets on the offensive glass and in effective field goal percentage.
Led by Defensive Player of the Year finalist Davis, the Lakers have been good in the playoffs defensively. They figured out how to slow down bubble MVP Damian Lillard of the Blazers in their first series. Then they were able to lock up the NBA’s leading scorer, James Harden in their four wins against the Rockets. Coach Frank Vogel has been able to keep his team focused defensively in all eight of their wins. Expect Murray to struggle to provide his playoff average of 27.1 points a game against the Lakers.
Defensive Stat Comparison
|Opp Effective FG %||53.5%||51.5%|
|Opp Pts in Paint/Gm||47.6||44.6|
The Center Position
The Lakers’ two centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard played less minutes in the series against the small-ball Rockets. There will be more minutes for those two in the Nuggets; series. McGee and Howard will do their best to try and slow down one of the leagues’ best centers in Jokic.
In the regular-season series, the Lakers outscored the Nuggets by 28.3 points per 100 possessions in the 56 minutes with Davis at center. The other 94 minutes that AD played alongside one of the centers the Lakers were outscored by 9.7 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers have shown to be offensively better with Davis at the four, but much better defensively with him at the five.
The Lakers do not need a big-three to win this series. Instead, they need some big “3s” out of the entire supporting cast. Danny Green (38.5% 3P%) leads the list of players who still need to step up and make a higher percentage of his shots from behind the arc. Alex Caruso, Rajon Rondo, Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Markieff Morris have all stepped up at different times to help the Lakers win their first two series. The Lakers do not need any one of these guys to be big each night, they just need any one of them to get hot on any given night to win.
Nuggets’ Breakdown and Keys to Victory
The Nuggets have already surprised the NBA world by knocking off the No. 2 seeded Clippers in seven. They have one of the league’s best tandems in Murray and Jokic, playing with nothing to lose.
The numbers below show how close this series really was. Devers’ effective field goal percentage was the difference.
Keeping LeBron and the Lakers Out of the Paint
The Nuggets do not have a rim protector with Jokic at center. They came into the playoffs allowing teams to shoot 65% from the restricted areas (14th out of the 16 playoff teams). In the playoffs, they have improved to 62.5% in the same category. Jeremi Grant has been a key wing defender and their leading shot-blocker with 1.1 blocks per game in the playoffs. Grant and Paul Millsap will have the tough challenge of keeping LeBron from getting to the rim.
In their first two series, they did not face a team quite like the Lakers when it comes to attacking the rim. The Lakers have been in a league of their own when it comes to shooting in the restricted area. They averaged 22.0 field goals per game during the regular season, and 21.3 in the playoffs, which is five more than any other team has averaged. The Nuggets gave up 23.5 makes per game in the restricted area (second-most of any opponent) against the Lakers in their regular-season series.
Jokic and Murray Need to be Superheroes … Again
Jokic aka the Joker is one of, if not the best centers in the league at the age of 24. He is averaging 25.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per playoff game. His running mate Murray is only 22 years of age and has posted two 50-point games already this postseason. Murray is averaging 24.2 points and 5.5 assists throughout the playoffs. These numbers, which are great for both these superstars, need to be better at the end of the series if they want to have their first dance in the NBA Finals.
Depth and Porter Jr.
The Nuggets are one of the playoffs’ deepest teams. Denver has nine players that play significant minutes and they are all solid. The player who will most likely need to take a big jump in production for them to win this series is Michael Porter Jr. The 2018, 14th-overall pick is averaging 11.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in his first playoff run. He is going to need to play big minutes on both ends of the floor for Denver to advance.
First Two Series – Betting Analysis
You can click on the different tabs of the recent results to see the Lakers and Nuggets last 10 games and their head-to-head matchups.
Lakers in the Playoffs (8-2)
- Round 1: 4-1 vs Portland Trail Blazers
- Round 2: 4-1 vs Houston Rockets
The Lakers won both of their first two series 4-1 after dropping Game 1 in both. The Lakers have been dominant, winning by an average of 13.9 points a game. They are 7-1 against the spread in the eight games that they have won in the playoffs. The under is 7-3 in the Lakers’ 10 playoff games.
The Lakers have started each series slowly but turned things around after Game 1. The Lakers have more experienced players, led by 35-year-old LeBron James. It will be LeBron’s 11 Conference Finals appearance (first time in the West) in his 17-year career.
Nuggets in the Playoffs (8-6)
- Round 1: 4-3 vs Utah Jazz
- Round 2: 4-3 vs Los Angeles Clippers
The Nuggets are at their best with their back against the wall. They have already done something no other NBA team has done by coming back from two 3-1 deficits in the same playoffs. In Games 5 and 6 of the Clippers series, the Nuggets fought back from 16- and 19-point deficits.
Denver was a 7.5-points or more underdogs in each of the seven games against the Clippers. The Nuggets covered the spread five times. They covered the spread four times in the seven games against the Jazz. The Nuggets have only been favored twice during the playoffs and most likely will not be considered the favorites against the Lakers. The Nuggets on the over/under are 7-5-2 (under-over-push) in their 14 playoff games.
|ROT||TO WIN THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP 2019~2020||MONEYLINE|
|2||Los Angeles Lakers||-225|
- Lakers Preseason Odds: +450
The Lakers are heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals now that the Bucks and Clippers are out of the tournament. This is for good reason. The Lakers seem to be on a different level than the other three teams left.
- Nuggets Preseason Odds: +2000
The Nuggets were an outside shot to get this far and are still the team receiving the worst odds out of the four remaining. Their current odds of +800 is reflecting their chances to win a seven-game series over the Lakers. If they can upset the Lakers, they will be in the driver’s seat to win the championship.
Odds to win the Series
- Denver Nuggets: +450
- Los Angeles Lakers: -600
- Team: Point Spread | Moneyline | Total
- Denver Nuggets: +7 -110 | +240 | 212 -110o
- Los Angeles Lakers: -7 -110 | -280 | 212 -110u
The Lakers have lost two straight Game 1s. Taking the Nuggets to win Friday at +240 odds seems like a good bet. The Lakers are coming off of rest and may start another series slow. A $100 bet will pocket you $240.
The 212 under is a great bet with a tired Nuggets team and a sluggish Lakers team that have both had more unders than overs so far in the playoffs.
Lakers in 5
The big question is if the Nuggets have any magic left? And also, if they have any gas left in the tank? Being down 3-1 in back-to-back series takes a lot out of a team. It would be the most historic playoff run if they can upset the Lakers and go on to win the NBA Championship.
The Lakers will make short work of the Nuggets if they are hitting their “3s.” Even if they are not, the Lakers are going to be putting constant pressure on the Nuggets’ defense inside. The Nuggets do not have a player who can match up with LeBron or anyone to contest him at the rim once he bulldozes his way to the basket. Ultimately LeBron gets his team to the finals for the ninth time in 11 years, because that’s what the King does.
Finals Prediction: Lakers vs Heat