In this potential playoff preview, the Denver Nuggets take on the Los Angeles Lakers in what should be a litmus test for where both teams stand. The Nuggets, winners of five straight, are 4½-point betting favorites or -190 on the money line. The comeback on the Lakers is +165.
The Lakers (36-28) have lost three straight and six of their last seven. Their only win came against the hapless Orlando Magic. It gets worse as LeBron James (ankle) reaggravated his injury and G Dennis Schroder (quarantine) is also out. Denver (43-21) should win this one this Monday night.
Denver Nuggets: All Locked In
It’s all but a done deal now that Nikola Jokic will be crowned the Most Valuable Player when this regular season concludes. How can he not be? Jokic has taken the Denver Nuggets to a new level since the All-Star break.
The team has the NBA’s best record during this span: 22-6. Their offense is the fourth-best overall at 116.9. Jokic improves the team’s offense by at least 13 points. Never mind the defense as the Nuggets lost a slew of their players from last season and have managed to go from a bottom-seven defense to middle-of-the-pack, at least.
Denver has been tough to beat at home, but they’ve recently scored big road victories over the Clippers (twice), Blazers, and Grizzlies. They need these as six of their remaining eight games are on the road.
With G/F Will Barton (hamstring) and G Monte Morris (hamstring) hurt, the Nuggets will lean on Jokic more. But look for F Michael Porter Jr. and F Aaron Gordon to continue playing big roles.
Los Angeles Lakers: Heart of Champions
If adversity creates champions, then the defending Los Angeles Lakers are set to win their second straight title. The team has been besieged by injuries. With Anthony Davis back, the team now loses James and Schroder again.
Davis is still not 100% either as he’s been less-than-stellar since returning. The eight-time All-Star is posting just 16.5 points and 6.7 rebounds on 39.4% shooting. The Lakers have been outscored by 56 points when he’s on the floor.
Anthony Davis since returning (6 games):
The Lakers have been outscored by 56 points when AD is on the court, the worst +/- on the team (almost double the second worst). pic.twitter.com/v3kJNr3hUx
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 3, 2021
A hurt Davis may be worse than an absent Davis as the Lakers have gone 1-5 in his six games back. The Lakers’ once elite defense has plunged to just 19th in this span and their offense is still in the bottom-third of the league at 22nd.
The loss of James and Schroder also takes out their two best playmakers. Considering most of their scorers are heavily reliant on assists, it could be another painful night for the Lakers. Things are bleak for them. Now’s the time to gut out a win.
There is a lot of line movement on the Nuggets on the NBA betting lines for a reason. The Lakers are looking like a lottery team lately and James ripping the play-in format only shows desperation and not in a good way.
But hey, if you’re a Lakers fan this could be a prime spot to bet them at +165. The Nuggets’ defense is pretty penetrable and they will be without two of their more important players.
Otherwise, this is Denver all the way. Jokic should be able to operate without much impediment. If Davis continues to bog down the Lakers, Jokic can run circles around the entire team as he finds Gordon, MPJ, and whoever else for easy baskets.
The last time these two met, the Nuggets bombarded L.A. with 19 three-pointers and scored 73 first-half points as +3 underdogs. Even if they don’t pull off that hot shooting, they should beat the discombobulated Lakers.
Pick: Denver Nuggets -190