NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Bets for Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 2 (May 18)

NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Bets for Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 2 (May 18) article feature image
Credit:

Getty Images/ Matt Roembke of Action Network. Pictured: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets.

  • The opening game of the Western Conference finals had a thrilling finish. Now come the adjustments in Game 2.
  • Matt Moore has multiple betting predictions for Thursday's matchup, including bets on the spread, total and player props.
  • Check out his picks for Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 2.

Lakers vs. Nuggets Odds

8:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Spread: Nuggets -5.5 | Total: 226

The Denver Nuggets took a 1-0 series lead behind an incredible 34-21-14 performance from Nikola Jokic and 31 from Jamal Murray. But after leading by 21, Denver saw its fortunes flip in the fourth quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers used Rui Hachimura to defend Jokic with Anthony Davis roaming on the weakside for rim protection off of Aaron Gordon, and brought the game to a three-point lead as LeBron James took and missed a deep 3-pointer.

How will Denver adjust? Can the Nuggets shoot as well as they did in Game 1? Can the Lakers? What does Game 2 look like? Who will take control of the series? Game 2 is crucial for both teams. Let's bet Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 2.

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Playing With Pace

The Pace in the first half of Game 1 was blistering at 102 per 48 minutes. The Nuggets went up and down, attempting to run the Lakers out in the altitude. But in the second half, it dropped to just 93. The Nuggets suffered a letdown off the adrenaline while the Lakers' defense settled down. The Nuggets consistently got into their sets with 11 seconds or less left on the clock.

Both teams shot above expectations. The Lakers are not a great 3-point shooting team, and Austin Reaves alone hit 5-of-8 from deep. They shot 46% from 3-point range overall. There is a perception that the Lakers scored well because the Nuggets' defense is bad, and the Nuggets scored well but the Lakers "figured them out" late. Neither is accurate.

We're going to see a better offensive process but a slower pace and lower shooting percentages. Denver will likely cover Reaves better coming off screens — they dared Reaves to shoot in Game 1, and he made them pay. D'Angelo Russell was almost entirely played off the floor. If he doesn't play, that's one less threat from deep.

The Nuggets will still struggle with the adjustment of Hachimura on Jokic. It's solvable, whether by Aaron Gordon spacing out and hitting shots (if he does), or by using him as a screener to force actions that free up other players. But even then, the Lakers will force the Nuggets to take more time and won't make things as easy. I loved the over in Game 1. I think this game swings back the other way.

Two trends to watch: In games in a series after both teams shot 40% or better from 3, the under is 51% in the following game. In Game 2's after a Game 1 over, the under is 41-26 (69.7%) in the last five years.


The Lakers' Counter Punch

If I believe the pace will be slower and the scoring will be tighter, there's value on the dog, no matter who it is. And while I think Denver has a number of adjustments up its sleeve as well and some tactical advantages that won't go away, the Lakers are likely to make a huge push in this game. Going down 0-2 means the Nuggets only have to win two of five with two games left in Denver.

The Lakers pushed for Game 1, don't believe they didn't. Both teams were gassed by the end of Game 1. LeBron and AD both played 40-plus minutes. But they will make a big push here. I'll likely play the Lakers first half here as well. Denver is great at home, but the Lakers were able to take such a great punch and still get back into the game.

I don't believe the Lakers have momentum, but I do think the Lakers found things to attack. If the Nuggets don't change their switch of Jamal Murray on James, James will a. wear down Murray, b. get him in foul trouble, and c. score with ease again. But changing up their coverage leads to higher percentage looks for other players, especially corner shooters.

If the Lakers go big with Hachimura, an important adjustment is that James gets to defend Michael Porter Jr. and MPJ won't get as many clean looks from 3 like he did with 6-foot-5 Reaves defending.

The Nuggets shot the lights out in Game 1; so did the Lakers. But if there's shooting regression, it favors the Lakers' preferred style of game more. I'm less bullish on the moneyline bet, but I do think it's worth playing because dogs that cover tend to win outright in the playoffs (23-8 SU, 74.8%).


The Gordon Pendulum Swing

I talked about how important Gordon's role would be in the Nuggets-Lakers series preview. It's extremely unlikely that Gordon will play fewer minutes and that the Nuggets will play Michael Porter Jr. at power forward. They should, but they won't for fear that James will score a million points and that it will disrupt their chemistry too much after their success this year with him in the lineup.

But the Lakers are going to leave him open with Davis guarding him, and Gordon isn't great at passing in tight space.

The Lakers crowd angles. He'll try and score, either on short jumpers in pick-and-roll, long jumpers spacing the floor, or underneath with the Lakers' monster rim protectors packing his shots.

I don't think this is a Gordon series, and I think he'll continue to struggle offensively, especially with how much he's having to work defending LeBron James.

Pick: Aaron Gordon Under 15.5 PTS + AST (-106)

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How I'm Betting Lakers vs Nuggets

I also noted in my betting angles piece from Game 1 that I'm looking to bet unders on D'Angelo Russell and over on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Be sure to follow my picks in the Action Network App to get all of my bets for Game 2.

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