NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Bets for Game 3 Nuggets vs Lakers

NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Bets for Game 3 Nuggets vs Lakers article feature image
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Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets.

  • The Denver Nuggets hit the road for the first time in the Western Conference Finals as they take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.
  • The Nuggets find themselves in a tough situational spot on Saturday, despite entering this game with a 2-0 series lead.
  • Check out how Matt Moore is betting Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals below.

Nuggets vs. Lakers Odds

8:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Spread: Lakers -5.5 · Total: 223

The Los Angeles Lakers have done a lot to salvage this season. They made two trades that redefined their roster identity. They battled through a late-season foot injury for LeBron James. They played their way out of the play-in, including a comeback against the Minnesota Timberwolves that might have led to this matchup in the first round if it had it not happened.

Now, they have to salvage it once more in a must-win game at home in Game 3.

The Lakers haven't played terribly, and the Denver Nuggets haven't played amazingly. That might be the biggest concern for the Lakers: the Nuggets haven't played four good quarters (they almost did in Game 1), the Lakers haven't played four awful quarters (they played an awful half in Game 1), and it's still 2-0 Nuggets.

But both games were within the margin.

If you thought the Lakers were a better team than the Nuggets and Denver was a fraud, you should probably re-examine your position.

If you thought the Nuggets would dominate and destroy the Lakers, first off, why? But second, you should probably re-examine that as well.

The Lakers can dig out of this hole and extend this series. Winning four out of five from the Nuggets, with two in Denver, is another matter. But that's down the road. First comes the question of whether the Lakers can get a win to gain momentum and stave off an insurmountable 3-0 deficit or whether the Nuggets can end this series before any drama has a real chance to begin.

Let's bet Nuggets vs. Lakers Game 3.

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Lakers 1H -3.5 · Lakers -5.5

The trends are fairly obvious here.

Teams after losing Games 1 and 2 in Game 3: 70-48 straight up (59%) and 67-49-2 (58%) against the spread since 2003.

Favorites in this spot are 48-17 SU and 43-20-2 (68%!) ATS.

Teams in this spot have led at the half in 53-of-65 games (82%). The average margin at the half in those games for the home team was 9.2.

The Lakers have gotten better at defending the Nuggets and Nikola Jokic, in particular, as the series has progressed. Jokic is 9-of-23 since the third quarter of Game 1. They dragged the Nuggets offense into the mud in Game 2, and the only thing that saved Denver was Jamal Murray's heroic exploits.

That doesn't mean the wrong team won. The Lakers' inability to shift gears and keep up with Murray was an issue, especially with LeBron James jacking up 3s.

The Nuggets deserve to be up 2-0 and will most likely have a good shot at 3-1 at some point between now and Monday night. However, they are not 3-0 better than the Lakers, and the first two games showed that.

From a basketball perspective, the Lakers have averaged 3.8 more points off turnovers at home than on the road in this postseason and allowed 1.7 fewer per 100 possessions. The Nuggets give up 1.9 more per 100 possessions on the road.

The Lakers will use home court to bog down Denver, attack passing lanes and get out in transition where they can score instead of trying to hang in a half-court game with a superior offense.

The Nuggets' opponent free-throw rate jumps by five percentage points on the road this postseason; they put opponents on the line for roughly four more free throws per game on the road. Expect a lot of fouls, potentially on Jokic, and for the Lakers to benefit.

The Nuggets are the 1-seed, and maybe they just are simply that much better than the Lakers. But nothing from Games 1 and 2 suggested they are so much better as to go up 3-0, so we'll hit this spot with a heavy power rating swing on home court but still a number within closing free throws margin.


Over 222

There might be better value in just playing the Lakers team total here, but I'll go ahead and play the combined over for safety.

The Nuggets didn't shoot well in Game 2. But their offense has traveled pretty well in the postseason, averaging 118.7 points per 100 possessions on the road, second-best in the playoffs.

I wrote about how I'm expecting more live-ball turnovers and more free throws. Both of those will lead to better offensive opportunities for the Lakers. Denver's offensive floor remains really high and will likely be better than Game 2.

I'll play the over with an eye on how Jokic handles his first road game of the series with the continued small-ball efforts to neutralize him.


Nikola Jokic Under 28.5 Points

On top of Jokic being 9-of-23 in the last five quarters, if anyone is going to get into foul trouble in Game 3, it's Jokic. Foul trouble would limit his availability and hurt his production. Turnovers take the ball out of his hands.

The Lakers are also progressively sending more help in post-ups which will lead Jokic to pass more. Don't mess with his rebounds or assists. Just play the under and trust he won't feel the need to be a great scorer.

Pick: Nikola Jokic Under 28.5 Points

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