NBA Odds, Picks & Predictions: Matt Moore’s Bets for Game 4 Nuggets vs Lakers
Getty Images/ Matt Roembke of Action Network. Pictured: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets, LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers.
- The Lakers look to avoid elimination in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals when they host the Nuggets on Monday night in Los Angeles.
- The Nuggets are trying to finish off the sweep and reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
- Action Network senior NBA writer Matt Moore breaks down the matchup and shares his three favorite bets for Nuggets vs. Lakers Game 4.
Nuggets vs. Lakers Game 4 Odds
History can feel heavy.
Teams hear all the talking points that have defined the past, no matter how much they say they don’t. They watch ESPN on the road or the other game broadcasts. They check social media, even if it’s not Twitter.
The Denver Nuggets have never reached the NBA Finals. They’ve never been this far in the postseason. They’ve never beaten the Los Angeles Lakers in a playoff series.
No team has ever come back from down 0-3 in a series as the Lakers find themselves.
So don’t be surprised if one team or the other is feeling like the weight of expectation is a burden in Game 4.
For the Lakers, their remarkable run has come to a screeching halt in the face of a team actually equipped to outgun them. The Grizzlies and Warriors simply never had the firepower to create separation.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, have an offensive floor among the stars. Slow down their mechanics, and their superior shotmaking takes over. Manage to get an average or below-average shooting night, and they hit you with movement and passing.
But the Lakers have a lot to lean on: Championship pedigree. The greatness of LeBron James. The comfort that the Nuggets won the first two games by fewer than seven points, and in the third game, the Lakers held a fourth-quarter lead, if only for a possession.
The Nuggets have shown a mental toughness far greater than their opponents (and really, more than any team in these playoffs). They’ve dominated an overmatched Timberwolves team and fought out of a tied 2-2 series with the Suns to dominate in a Game 6.
Now they find themselves on the verge of: becoming the greatest team in franchise history if they aren’t already; of validating a slow build that started seven years ago; of putting Nikola Jokic in a tier among the all-time greats.
But they have to get through the Lakers and LeBron James. They have to finish the job. The Nuggets have to eliminate LeBron on his home floor. If Saturday was the biggest win in Nuggets history, this is something else.
Lakers Tactical Adjustments
The move here is obvious: start Rui Hachimura and bench D’Angelo Russell. Austin Reaves and Hachimura are shooting 60% combined in this series. They have a 123 Offensive Rating together and a 113 Defensive Rating. Their minutes have been the best in the series for the Lakers.
Russell is an unmitigated disaster. They are -32 Net Rating in his minutes and +22 when he sits. It cannot be any more obvious.
There are political reasons not to bench him; he may not respond well. They need to re-sign him in free agency, if only to not lose an asset.
But if the Lakers want to win this game, they need to try and win the Jokic-Murray minutes by margin, and Reaves-Hachimura gives them their best chance at that.
They need Dennis Schröder to chase Murray. Reaves and Hachimura are your offense, along with hopefully a great Anthony Davis game or a classic LeBron game.
The Lakers are stuck where if they play their defensive lineups, they can’t score enough, and the Nuggets run off their misses. If they play their offensive lineups, they can’t get enough stops.
They have done well vs. Jokic for the past two and a half games. He took over in the fourth quarter of Game 3, but they’re going to have to live with that. If they can just do something, anything, to limit Jamal Murray, they’re in business. Step one starts with benching Russell.
Nuggets Tactical Adjustments
The Nuggets found the Hachimura/Davis roam counter in Game 3: They ran 5-1 pick and roll with their center, Nikola Jokic, as the ball handler with Jamal Murray screening.
The Lakers were completely baffled by it, and when they tried to overload the strong side, the Nuggets moved the ball to shooters on the weak side.
The Lakers will likely try to switch the 5-1 pick and roll, but that causes problems not just with Jokic attacking smaller defenders but sometimes Murray, too, on secondary screens.
More than anything, though, is the Nuggets’ proclivity to hit first and hit last. They have started almost every playoff game with a strong run, often by Murray. Then they manage their runs for three quarters and then destroy late game.
The Nuggets have had more intensity in these key road games than most thought they were capable of. If they can bring that one more time, they’ll be in great shape to close the series out.
- Nuggets Win by 11+ at +550 on FanDuel
- Lakers Win by 11+ at +290 on FanDuel
I’m playing both sides here. The bet is “this is a blowout, one way or the other.”
Of the 82 games since 2003 when a team is up 3-0, 39 (48%) of those games have resulted in a win by double digits for that team or the opponent. The implied odds on this bet are roughly +143 (15.38% at +550 plus 25.64% at +290 for an implied 41.02%).
So based on the trend, we’ve got a seven-percent edge.
If the Lakers shake up their starting lineup with Hachimura and bench Russell (who has been a tire rolling downhill on fire into a trash can in this series), they can finally build a substantial first-half lead. If the Lakers hit the Nuggets with a serious punch and not one of these microbursts they’ve had in the first three games, the Nuggets may just pack it in and head back for Game 5 at home, where they’re unbeaten.
Denver got great shooting in Game 3 from role players (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown and even Jeff Green), a 30-piece from Jamal Murray, and a 16-point fourth quarter from Nikola Jokic… and the Lakers still had a chance until the last five minutes. So if the Nuggets just have an off-shooting game in a win-or-go-home spot, the Lakers can leave no doubt and try and win the toughest one on the road.
Pick: Lakers to Win by 11+ Points +290
On the other side, however… the Lakers looked defeated in Game 3. Even before the 13-0 run Denver rattled off in the fourth, the Lakers knew they just couldn’t get past them. They finally took the lead early in the fourth, and the Nuggets calmly went down and rattled off two 3s.
If the Lakers realize the jig is up, and this season is done, adversity will hit harder. They’ll realize they have to come back in this game, then travel to Denver back to the altitude … and then win there and then back and again and back and again.
Denver’s margin for victory in its two closeout games this postseason? 14 points.
The Nuggets’ margin since 2019 (their first playoff run), when they win a series, is 11.
So we’ll take both ends of the spectrum at an implied +143 and bet both sides.
Pick: Nuggets to Win by 11+ Points +550
It’s correlated, but in closeout games with one team up 3-0 in Game 4 when the margin is double digits, the over is 15-11-2 (58%). If the Lakers hit shots, they’re going to run the floor and push pace off misses. If the Nuggets win this game, it’s their offensive superiority winning out.
Two of the three games have gone over in this series, and that trend should continue here.
Pick: Over 224
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