Lakers vs Nuggets: Game 1 Prediction, Odds, Pick (Saturday, April 20)

Lakers vs Nuggets: Game 1 Prediction, Odds, Pick (Saturday, April 20) article feature image

Pictured: LeBron James of the Lakers and Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets for Action Network’s odds, picks, and prediction for Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs.

Lakers vs. Nuggets Odds

Saturday, April 20
8:30 pm
Lakers Odds
-110 / -110
Nuggets Odds
-110 /-110
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Here's everything you need to know about Lakers vs. Nuggets on Saturday, April 20 – our expert prediction and betting picks for today's game.

Here we are! The playoffs are upon us, and we already have a rematch of the Western Conference Finals from last season. Lebron James and the Lakers are once again the No. 7 seed, but with the Nuggets in the No. 2 seed, these teams face off in Round 1 this time with LA hoping to avoid another sweep.

The Lakers weren’t so lucky to avoid Nikola Jokic and Co. this season, but with an aging James, perhaps it’s better to catch them before the wear and tear of a Western Conference Finals run rather than at the end of one.

On the Denver side, the Nuggets are still the odds-on favorite to win the West – and rightfully so – but they have looked a bit more susceptible this season compared to last. The Nuggets bench, which was a weakness even in their championship run, is even thinner this season with the departure of Bruce Brown and Jeff Green.

Los Angeles Lakers

While the Lakers didn’t win any games in last season’s matchup, the Western Conference Finals wasn’t as much of a blowout as the sweep might make it seem – or at least that’s what you tell yourself if you’re a Lakers fan. Los Angeles lost by an average of just six points per game, losing by just two in the final closeout game.

But part of the reason there was a sweep in the first place is there’s a significant problem with this matchup for LA. D’Angelo Russell was played off the court in the Conference Finals, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that could happen again this time around too. Needless to say, if your third-best player is rendered useless, it’s tough to win games against the best teams in the league.

As the series progresses and Darvin Ham makes adjustments, someone could step in if Russell’s minutes go down, and we could see some value on some overs for player props of whoever that is. I’ll be watching Game 1 to see who that might be.

I’ve got my eyes on Rui Hachimura, who's already starting but could see his minutes increase because of the size and shooting he offers.

Gabe Vincent is another player who could potentially see an uptick, and since we’ve seen so little of him this season, there could be even more value on his props.

Denver Nuggets

Denver’s path to another finals run isn’t quite as rosy as it was last season. The entire Western Conference is better. Just take the Lakers as an example. They won 47 games, four more than last season, and they’re still just the No. 7 seed.

And with diminished depth, they’ll need to rely on health more than usual. That said, they should be more than equipped to handle a first-round series against the Lakers once again. The question is more about how difficult it will be on Denver this time.

Before you accuse me of being overly dismissive of the Lakers' chances in this series, let’s look at some recent history. In the past two seasons, the Nuggets have won 11 of the last 13 meetings, including eight straight. In fact, the last time the Lakers beat the Nuggets was on Dec. 16, 2022, and Russell Westbrook had a triple-double.

I expect the Nuggets to use their home court and altitude advantage in Game 1 and try to tire out the Lakers on the fast break. The Lakers allow the fifth most transition opportunities in the league, and while the Nuggets have been an average transition team during the season, we saw them exploit that weakness in the Conference Finals last season, especially in Game 1.

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Lakers vs. Nuggets

Betting Pick & Prediction

We know Lebron is no spring chicken anymore, which means I’ll be targeting the Lakers early on in this series.

The Nuggets aren’t as untouchable as they were last season, and I expect the Lakers to take at least a game off the defending champs. But the question is, in which game will that be? I’m not calling a Game 1 Lakers win, but I think don’t think the Lakers will give up easily.

The Lakers aren’t a high 3-point volume team, but if they get down early, they might try to shoot their way back into the game, and I don’t see James, at his age, packing things up early and trying to win Game 2 instead.

James used to be someone who could wait out a series, get a feel for the matchups, and make his move later on. But he doesn’t have that luxury anymore at age 39. The Lakers will continue to apply the pressure to try to steal Game 1. Whether or not they can, I don’t know, but I think that bodes well for an over, and I’ll look to live bet the Lakers at halftime if they’re down by five or more.

We saw them mount a comeback in Game 1 of the Western Conference only to have it fall short, but they turned an 18-point deficit at half into a six-point loss. I also expect the Nuggets to test LA by getting out on the break and running on the Lakers in that Denver altitude. I think we see possessions, and I like an over up to 226.5.

Pick: Over 224 (-110 at DraftKings) | Live bet Lakers if down by 5 or more at halftime

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