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Nuggets vs. Lakers Game 3 odds, prediction: NBA Playoffs picks, best bets

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As their NBA Western Conference playoff series shifts to Los Angeles, the Lakers are probably wondering how they’re down 2-0 to the Denver Nuggets.  

In both games, Los Angeles (49%) shot better than Denver (45.3%), but turnovers (13.5 vs. 6.5) have been a big problem. 

Yet, despite losing 10 straight games to the Nuggets, the Lakers narrowed the gap and had a chance to win Game 2 if not for a walk-off buzzer-beating jump shot by point guard Jamal Murray. 

While Denver continues to dominate this head-to-head series, there is one angle that should offer some value when betting on the Lakers.

Nuggets vs. Lakers odds

Team Spread Moneyline Total
Nuggets +1 (-110) -105 o217 (-110)
Lakers -1 (-110) -115 u217 (-110)
Odds via DraftKings

Nuggets analysis

The Nuggets have yet to play their best basketball in this first-round series — probably because they don’t need to. Denver can almost count on the Lakers to devise a new way to lose the game. 

In Game 2, Los Angeles built a 20-point lead in the third quarter, but it still wasn’t enough.

There’s a certain calmness with this Nuggets team that comes from their collective trust in one another. I still recall Murray’s comments after Game 1 when he discussed why the Nuggets don’t seem to panic when they fall behind. 

“I just think we know what we want,” Murray said. “We’re not trying to do anything different. We’re not trying to, like, make stuff up.”

The Nuggets look to be the more confident team down the stretch, and they make sure that either Murray or Nikola Jokic touch the ball on the key possessions. 

With the Lakers going deep into their bag to find adjustments, Denver is almost using the first half of this series to feel its way through the game — similar to a boxer trying to gauge his opponent’s reach or punching power in the early rounds.

It’s often when the Nuggets make their own counter-adjustments that they have the most success.

Lakers analysis

Like every team in the NBA, the Lakers are having trouble slowing Jokic down. The two-time MVP finished with a triple-double and recorded his fourth career 25/20/10 performance in the postseason. 

Whether inside the paint, in pick-and-roll situations or even on the fastbreak, Los Angeles has yet to find a consistent solution over a 48-minute game.

Denver will eventually go on a run, and there isn’t much L.A. can do about it. The Lakers are very aware of this, so they desperately try to avoid a slow start.


For the Lakers to have a chance in Game 3, Lebron James and Anthony Davis will need to stay on the court. Getty Images

Once the Nuggets get ahead of their opponents, they become even less predictable with their variation of pick-and-rolls and weak-side cuts to the basket for uncontested alley-oops.

If the Lakers can build a lead, they have a better chance of managing the game the rest of the way. That strategy looked to be successful in Game 2, as Los Angeles built a 20-point advantage in the third quarter. 

However, the Lakers abandoned their pick-and-roll scheme, which worked so well between LeBron James and Anthony Davis in building their double-digit lead. Instead, they started using a combination of James and Rui Hachimura in the pick-and-roll, which didn’t quite amount to the same level of success. 

While the Lakers always have to be mindful of the additional exertion involved in using their two best players, they don’t have much of a choice at this point, given the lack of production coming off their bench.

Thus, the best chance to back the Lakers might be in the game’s early stages when James and Davis are at their freshest.


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Nuggets vs. Lakers pick

Although the Lakers are primarily responsible for blowing a 20-point lead, they spent most of their time criticizing the officials and the league’s replay center after the game.

Players are always looking for an extra edge, and if it means working the officials to get a favorable whistle in the next game, you can be sure they’ll take full advantage. The Lakers are likelier to have more calls go their way in Game 3 at home. That’s just how things work in the NBA.

With the Lakers feeling aggrieved that they lost the game, look for them to have another fast start. The home team will likely make more adjustments, while Denver is happy to sit back and play the role of a counterpuncher.

Since we probably can’t trust this Lakers team to play consistently for 48 minutes, a first-quarter bet backing them on the spread might be our best option.

Pick: Lakers 1Q -0.5 (-124, BetRivers)

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