NBA Odds, Best Bets Today: Expert Betting Picks for Lakers vs. Nuggets Tuesday, May 16

NBA Odds, Best Bets Today: Expert Betting Picks for Lakers vs. Nuggets Tuesday, May 16 article feature image
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Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets.

  • Game 1 of the Western Conference finals tips Tuesday night with a highly anticipated matchups between the Nuggets and Lakers.
  • Action Network's analysts have six best bets today, featuring player props, spread bets and more.
  • Check out their expert picks for Lakers vs Nuggets Game 1 below.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets meet again in the Western Conference finals after facing off in the 2020 Conference finals in the Orlando bubble. The stars on both sides remain — LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray — but pretty much everything has changed. This time, the Lakers are chasing the Nuggets, who are the favorites to come out of the series.

Action Network's analysts have six best bets today, including a pair of player props, a case for one side of the spread and more for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Read on for their expert picks for Lakers vs. Nuggets below.

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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick
Lakers ML (+205)
Book
DraftKings
Tipoff
8:30 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN

Andrew O'Connor-Watts: LeBron James has traditionally used games early in a series to feel things out, but I think this season is different. He’s older now, and at 38 years old, he doesn’t have the luxury of waiting until Game 6 to start putting on the pressure. He and his teammates need to get right down to business these days or father time will get the best of him.

We’ve seen it twice already this postseason where the Lakers steal Game 1 on the road as underdogs, but winning in Denver will be their most difficult task yet. The Nuggets have excellent home court advantage with the altitude, not to mention they’re a great team that doesn’t make many mistakes.

However, the Lakers will be a tougher matchup defensively than the Nuggets have faced this postseason. In the playoffs, the Lakers have the third best defensive eFG% (50.2%) while the Nuggets are third in offensive eFG% (56.1%), according to Cleaning the Glass.

Denver presents problems of its own for L.A. in that it doesn’t require getting to the line for the offense to be elite. The Lakers do rely heavily on free throws to create offense and the Nuggets rank eighth in defensive free throw rate (20.0) in both the postseason and the regular season.

Denver is favored here for a reason, but this is a numbers/narrative play. I have this closer to Lakers +160, so I see value at +184 and would bet the Lakers down to +175 to win one unit.


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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick
Over 222.5
Book
FanDuel

Matt Moore: I'm betting a ton of props in the opening matchup and I wrote about those bets in my Game 1 betting column (you can read that here). Los Angeles has the fastest pace of any team left in the playoffs and averages the third-most fast-break points per 100 possessions of the remaining teams. The Lakers spend 18.4% of their time in transition, the most of the four playoff teams and the sixth most of any playoff team. Their half-court offense is mediocre, so the Lakers know they have to push pace.

The Nuggets were a high turnover team in the regular season, a byproduct of their passing offense. They've been a low-turnover team in the playoffs, even against a Wolves team built around forcing them — but they also faced the Suns, who hardly forced any at all.

The Lakers will dig and scratch at Nikola Jokic on post-ups and on Jamal Murray in pick-and-roll. They will try and force easy scoring opportunities.

Meanwhile, Denver has looked to push pace at home in its own right. The Nuggets have the most efficient transition offense left in the league, and they try and set the tone early in home games.

If you disagree with this play, bet the Lakers moneyline. The Lakers will struggle to win offensive, high-scoring affairs, and the Nuggets, despite a better-than-expected defensive performance thus far, will struggle in a slugfest.

Pace is the biggest reason the over is my best bet in this game.


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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick
Nuggets -6
Book
FanDuel

Austin Wang: I have two bets that I like for this game and I wrote more about it on the Lakers-Nuggets betting guide (you can read that here). The Nuggets are an incredible 40-7 straight up and 30-16-1 ATS at home this season. They are 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS in the playoffs. These two teams split their regular season series with both teams winning at home.

Don't overthink it. The Nuggets have been dominant at home all season long while the Lakers have struggled on the road. Also, I think there will be a let-down for a road team after a long, grueling series. I personally think Murray will play and I'll be backing the Nuggets against the spread up to -6.


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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick
Jokic o1.5 3-Pointers (+185)
Book
BetRivers

Brandon Anderson: Nikola Jokic is pretty good. Maybe you've noticed. Jokic fills up the stat sheet on points, rebounds, and assists - why not get us some 3-pointers too?

The marquee matchup in this series is Jokic against Anthony Davis. Davis is an elite defender, equipped both to defend Jokic about as anyone can and also to protect the paint like he did so well against Golden State. Davis wants to live in the paint, and we saw the Lakers struggle against Golden State when the Warriors were able to coax Davis out of the paint defensively.

I'm expecting Davis to try to anchor the paint early and effectively dare Jokic to prove he's willing to shoot over the top and hit some 3s. He's not always a willing shooter, and if he doesn't and Davis can just hang in the paint and take away the cutters and easy 2s, that's a win for the Lakers.

Jokic is a basketball genius and also happens to be hitting 48% of his playoff 3s, so if that's what LA is giving him, I expect Jokic to take it. He attempted nine threes in two full games against Davis this season and is averaging 1.7 makes in the playoffs on 3.6 attempts per game. He's gone over 1.5 makes in six of 11 games - over half of them! - and we're getting a robust +185 on this prop. He hit a pair of 3s three times against Phoenix and had 3-for-8 and 5-for-8 nights against Minnesota, and his only two games without a trey were easy blowout wins when he didn't have to bother.

If Jokic is really firing and you like this angle, I've got one more bet for you. Jokic is +12000 to lead the series in 3s (FanDuel), and there's no singular huge volume 3-point guy this series. If he hits a couple 3s a game, he could be in the mix, and if he has a big game early, he'll buy you huge value and opportunity to hedge. That's one of my favorite series long shot props.


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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick
Bruce Brown o15.5 PTS + REB (+100)
Book
DraftKings

Bryan Fonseca: I don't like using regular season stats to bolster a playoff point often, but Bruce Brown has gotten over this three of four times the Nuggets and Lakers played each other this season.

In the playoffs, he's gotten it two straight times, and is one of the most trustworthy role players in the Nuggets run. Brown is averaging 12.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on 53 percent shooting from the field. He's getting up 2.5 threes per game and only hitting 25.9 percent, but at least you're getting about three free throws per contest, where Brown's at 87 percent.

Against Phoenix, Brown's shooting splits were 53/31/85. His three-point attempts dropped to 2.2, but the free throw attempts elevated to 3.3. He also averaged 12.8 points and 3.7 rebounds.

Honestly, as dumb as the entire Nets experiment was, one of the dumber moves that franchise made was letting Bruce Brown walk. He's a 16-game role player who is going to have moments and piss off many Laker fans however long this series lasts.


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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick
Nuggets -6
Book
FanDuel

Chris Baker: The Nuggets have been remarkably elite at home this season, as they have yet to drop a game and have gone 5-1 ATS. I expect that trend to continue here as the Nuggets have a one-day rest advantage over the Lakers. The Lakers also must travel into the altitude of Denver, a daunting task that should not be overlooked.

Additionally, there is something to be said for adjusting to Denver’s style of play on offense. This is a remarkably untraditional offense in the amount of off-ball movement they incorporate and the amount they play through the post. The Nuggets offense is drastically different than the Grizzlies and Warriors and I anticipate the Lakers defense to struggle early in this series. LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell are severely lacking in their off-ball defensive ability and that is not an area where you can afford to be asleep against this Nuggets offense.

Additionally, this Lakers defense is highly dependent on Anthony Davis being a rim-protector, but it is reasonable to wonder whether his rim-protection will be mitigated given his Jokic assignment. Davis just spent two series essentially roaming in help defense as he was tasked with guarding a combination of Xavier Tillman, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney. These assignments awarded Davis tons of freedom to rotate and contest shots as none of these guys qualify as legitimate offensive threats.

Going from those three names to Nikola Jokic is obviously a massive leap in terms of offensive ability, and I expect Davis to have less of an impact defensively in this series. Jokic also has an approximately 40-pound weight advantage on Davis as well, so this isn’t the best individual matchup for Davis either.

On the flip side of the ball, the Lakers have been a pretty unimpressive half-court offense throughout the playoffs as they rank 14th in half-court offensive rating (93.4) thus far. They’ve survived by forcing a lot of turnovers and getting out in transition as they rank 6th in turnover rate forced (14.3%) and 3rd in transition rate (17.2%).

We should expect both of those numbers to negatively regress as the Nuggets have done a great job of taking care of the ball this postseason (second in TOV %) and limiting transition opportunities (fourth in transition rate allowed). Lakers have benefitted from playing two of the fastest, most turnover-prone teams in the NBA in their first two series, but now they must take on a legitimate half-court offensive juggernaut that played at the league’s 21st fastest pace this season.

I expect the Lakers to look like the bad team they were all season and the Nuggets to cover this number. Play this up to -6.5.


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