The highly anticipated 2023 Western Conference Finals will be a rematch of the 2020 Finals, where the Los Angeles Lakers swept the Denver Nuggets in four games. The Nuggets (61-32 SU 52-41 ATS) led by MVP runner up Nikola Jokic are -145 betting favorite to win the series over megastar Lebron James and the Lakers (52-43 SU 48-45-1 ATS). Lakers vs Nuggets NBA Odds for game 1 have the Nuggets instilled as -5.5 point home favorites with 70% of 2023 NBA Finals picks on Denver to cover the spread. ESPN2 News NBA picks staff break down the particulars with our in-depth Lakers vs Nuggets series predictions.
The Nuggets have more overall talent than last year’s squad with their trio of stars Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr, the driving force behind their success this season. The Lakers have also got a makeover with the addition of dynamic point guard D’Angelo Russell to accompany James and star power forward Anthony Davis.
The Nuggets however are expected to challenge the Lakers’ big men with their unique combination of size, strength, and outside shooting. Point guard Jamal Murray has proven himself as a clutch performer in crucial moments, and small forward Michael Porter Jr is a consistent scorer on the wing.
Meanwhile, the Lakers, are among the best defenders in the league led by arguably the best defender in the game in Davis. They will be tasked with containing Jokic and limiting the Nuggets’ offensive production. Also, LeBron James is known for his playoff game heroics, and Anthony Davis has stepped up his level of play in the 2023 playoffs.
Vegas Sharps Bets Analysis: As the Denver Nuggets prepare to face off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference playoffs, they will undoubtedly have one thing on their minds: avoiding another sweep by the Lakers. In order to do so, the Nuggets must make some key adjustments to their game plan.
First and foremost, the Nuggets need to find a way to slow down LeBron James. The 38-year old Lakers star is still playing at a high level this season, and he was a major factor in the Lakers’ sweep of the Nuggets in the 2020 Western Conference Finals. To counteract James, the Nuggets may need to adjust their defensive schemes and utilize multiple defenders to limit his effectiveness.
Another area where the Nuggets need to improve is in their three-point shooting. In the 2020 Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets struggled to hit shots from beyond the arc, making just 31.6% of their attempts. Against a strong defensive team like the Lakers, the Nuggets will need to knock down more threes to create space on the floor and open up opportunities for their other scorers. Denver is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the association ranking 2nd overall with a 37.9% beyond the arc.
Moreover, the Nuggets will need more consistent production from stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Jokic, the MVP runner-up, has been outstanding this season, but he struggled against the Lakers in the 2020 Finals, averaging just 22 points per game. Similarly, Murray’s performance in the playoffs was underwhelming, as he averaged just 16.8 points per game on 40.3% shooting. If the Nuggets want to compete with the Lakers this year, they’ll need both Jokic and Murray firing on all cylinders.
Finally, the Nuggets will need to be more disciplined on defense. In 2020, the Lakers were able to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line with ease, putting the Nuggets in a difficult position. By minimizing fouls and playing solid defense without giving up too many free points, the Nuggets will be better equipped to compete with the Lakers this time around.
Vegas Sharps Basketball Betting Picks: Nuggets to win the series -145