Few people could have predicted the Los Angeles Lakers would make the NBA Western Conference Finals after beginning the season 2-10. And yet, here they are, ready to square off against the Denver Nuggets, four wins away from making the 2023 NBA Finals.
Of course, despite the hype surrounding the Lakers, they are not favored to win this series. Not even close. Can they flip the script entering Game 1? We'll get to that. But first, here are all the details you need for the start of this highly anticipated matchup:
- What: Nuggets vs. Lakers Game 1
- Date: Tuesday, May 16
- Time: 8:30 p.m. EST
- Where: Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado
- Series Score: 0-0
Ahead of Tuesday's tip-off, the Nuggets are -165 favorites to win the series. It's not hard to see why. In an NBA season that has wanted for a juggernaut, they are the closest we've come to seeing one. Their consistency on the offensive end is unparalleled, and they have been able to step up their defense in certain lineup combinations to rumble with the toughest opponents possible. Even if you're skeptical of Denver's ability to win the series, it's difficult to pick against them in Game 1. They have been dominant at home all year, and as the latest 2023 NBA playoff betting odds show, the market doesn't give Los Angeles much of a chance Tuesday night:
|Los Angeles Lakers||+200||+205||+200|
Please remember to check these online NBA playoff betting odds until you actually submit your wager. Our Nuggets vs. Lakers betting odds are accurate as of Monday, May 15. That gives linemakers plenty of time to implement last-minute adjustments ahead of opening tip-off on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. EST. People who live in the Pacific and Mountain time zones will want to pay special attention to that schedule. You're used to games starting a touch later, but every tip-off in the Western Conference Finals will begin at 8:30 p.m. Be sure you're placing your bets in advance of that deadline.
As for potential line changes, they aren't an issue if you join up with the right sportsbook. We can help with that. Our reviews of the top online sportsbooks have all the information you need to spot the best online betting sites for the NBA playoffs.
Back to the series. Some experts are convinced the Lakers have a real shot to dethrone the Nuggets. Will that potential rear its head in Game 1? Let's find out.
If You Don't Have Faith in the Denver Nuggets Already, Now is a Great Time to Board the Bandwagon
It feels weird to say this about a Western Conference finalist, but the Nuggets still aren't getting their proper due. Just look at the odds to win the 2023 NBA Finals. They have turned in the best postseason performance of any remaining team yet fail to crack the top of the list.
That's a mistake. The Nuggets have shown the ability to shape-shift all playoffs. Many thought their defense would get torched with Nikola Jokic in the middle. It hasn't. Denver has employed an aggressive scheme at the level of screens, and the supporting cast behind Jokic is making both correct and ultra-quick rotations. The Nuggets are very much a two-way team right now.
Facing the Lakers does pose some matchup problems. Denver can use Aaron Gordon to chase around LeBron James and stick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on D'Angelo Russell or Dennis Schroder, depending on who is having the better game. But that leaves Jokic to tussle with Anthony Davis. It isn't yet clear if that's the smart course. Davis is mostly a play-finisher, but he has the ability to get behind Jokic or coax the two-time MVP into foul trouble.
The Nuggets cannot afford the latter. Though they have flashed the capacity to survive stretches without him this postseason, they started to crumble during his rest periods in the last round. Will Denver decide to put Gordon on AD instead and risk defending LeBron with KCP? This is a question that could potentially define the series.
Yet, in Game 1 specifically, the Nuggets should have the upper hand. They are coming off longer rest, playing at home and pose just as many problems for the Lakers as Los Angeles does for them.
OSB Prediction: Denver Nuggets (-245)
Can the Los Angeles Lakers Avoid Getting Blown Out on Denver's Home Court?
Teams have struggled to win in Denver all season, but this holds especially true during the playoffs. The Nuggets are a perfect 6-0 at home, and only one of their wins has come by fewer than 10 points.
Linemakers are clearly expecting them to follow the same script against Los Angeles. Here are the latest NBA point spread betting odds for Game 1 between the Nuggets and Lakers:
- Denver Nuggets, -6 (-110)
- Los Angeles Lakers, +6 (-110)
A six-point spread could seem rather large when you look at the vitals for these teams. Neither makes a ton of threes, and neither gives up a ton of extra opportunities at the foul line.
This is more of a problem for the Lakers than the Nuggets. Denver doesn't need to mismatch hunt, uncork threes in droves or get to the charity stripe to bust open big leads. The Lakers are different. If they don't get to the foul line a ton, their half-court offense can bog down, which in turn creates easier transition opportunities for their opponents. Other matchups in these series should be closer. Game 1 will decidedly belong to the Nuggets, though.
OSB Prediction: Denver Nuggets, -6 (-110)
This Nuggets vs. Lakers Series Pits the NBA Playoffs' Best Offense vs. the Best Defense
The Lakers enter Game 1 first in points allowed per possession during the playoffs. The Nuggets, meanwhile, rank first in points scored per possessions among the 16 teams who made the actual postseason. If you look at the latest over/under betting odds for Denver vs. Los Angeles, you can tell that linemakers already seem torn when trying to determine what shape this series will take:
- Over 222.5 (-110)
- Under 222.5 (-110)
This over/under would be higher if the Lakers made more threes or had a more reliable half-court offense. Still, they are averaging over 112 points per game in the playoffs. Even if the Nuggets don't send them to the line as frequently, they'll pile on enough buckets in transition and with LeBron playing bully ball to hold up their end of the bargain.
Denver's offense might wilt a tad against Los Angeles' postseason-best defense. That's fine. The Nuggets are averaging nearly 116 points per game and cleared 117 points per game in the semifinals. They have made baskets to spare here.
OSB Prediction: Over 222.5 (-110)
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use for all of your NBA playoffs betting: