Nuggets-Lakers Betting Guide: Why the Matchups Favor LeBron & Co.

Nuggets-Lakers Betting Guide: Why the Matchups Favor LeBron & Co. article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: LeBron James and Nikola Jokic

Betting odds: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers

  • Spread: Nuggets -3.5
  • Over/Under: 238
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: TNT

>> All odds as of 9:15 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets

Like we all expected, LeBron and the Lakers are 1-3 and the Denver Nuggets are 4-0. What a weird season so far. Is this the game LeBron & Co. get things back on track? Or will Nikola Jokic continue his MVP campaign? Our analysts are here to discuss.

Moore: What I’m Watching for Tonight

This is a trap game, for sure. Even though it’s the Mighty Lakers with LeBron on national television, the Nuggets should absolutely win. But I have some concerns.

The Lakers are sixth in fastbreak points per 100 possessions allowed. Their half-court defense is a tire fire, but they can cut off transition, and Denver is fourth in fastbreak points per 100 possessions.

The Math Problem — not being able to keep up by making 2s while your opponent makes 3s — isn’t a surface issue for the Lakers, who are, somehow, both taking and making more 3s than Denver has so far this season.

Much of that is about Denver’s shooting woes, which started to correct themselves vs. the Kings, but the absence of Will Barton also looms large.

Denver’s defense, meanwhile, has been great, but LeBron should carve it to pieces, even with Brandon Ingram suspended.

While the Nuggets have been great at bringing help and providing extra rotations, James is strong enough to simply burst through the help and draw fouls. Plus, Josh Hart should be able to find some seams, and Lonzo Ball’s shooting well (for now).

Most alarmingly, I’d expect JaVale McGee to have a big night. Nikola Jokic can’t stop opponents who are great at the lob, and that’s essentially all McGee is good at.

The Lakers’ small-ball lineups will force the Nuggets to make a choice between giving up defense with Jokic or offense with Paul Millsap at center.

On the surface, the Nuggets should absolutely roll over a short-handed, flawed team. Jamal Murray might be the X-factor: He has a mini-feud with Lonzo and can heat up, but overall, as weird as it sounds, the matchups tend to favor LA. — Matt Moore

Mears: Is Denver’s Defense Real or Fake?

Denver’s defense is one of the most interesting storylines to follow over the next couple months of the season. We knew the offense was going to be good, focused around Jokic, who is one of the most prolific passers we’ve ever seen at the big man position. But FIRST in the league in defensive efficiency?! That’s a shocker.

Honestly, the Nuggets been doing just about everything right on that end, so it’s hard to suggest it’s fluky. They’re playing with intensity, they rank sixth in forced turnovers, and they’re grabbing defensive rebounds at a top-five rate.

And somehow, they’ve posted the No. 1 defense despite opponents shooting 38.1% on 3-pointers against them — the third-highest mark in the league.

The Nuggets are allowing the fourth-most corner 3s, and opponents are knocking them down at the second-highest rate this season. It’s weird they’re so good.

As cliche as it sounds, it looks like they’re doing it mostly with discipline. Getting back in transition — Denver ranks fifth in transition opportunities allowed and first in transition defense this season — isn’t sexy, but it’s effective, and the Nuggets might have found a recipe for a top seed in the West as a result. — Bryan Mears

Betting Trends to Know

Since 2014, LeBron’s has been a home underdog in the regular season seven times. He is 4-3 straight up and against the spread in those games. — John Ewing

The Lakers-Nuggets over/under opened at 239 points, only the 10th time a game has opened with that high of a total since 2005.

If the game closes at 239 or higher, it will be the highest total at the Staples Center in at least the last 20 years. The Rockets-Lakers over/under from five days ago closed at 238.5, which was the highest total at the Staples Center over that span.

The Nuggets have opened the season 4-0 SU and ATS, and on Friday night, the Pelicans will have an opportunity to do the same.

Since 2005, 10 other teams have started a season 4-0 SU and ATS: Eight made the playoffs, seven of those playoff teams won at least one series, three made the NBA Finals and two won it all.

The 10 teams went a combined 441-366-13 ATS (54.6%), but only six of the 10 teams finished more than four games above .500 ATS at season’s end.

In LeBron’s four most recent years in Cleveland, the Cavs faced an undefeated opponent four times. The Cavs went 4-0 SU and ATS in those, covering the spread by 9.0 PPG. In case you were wondering, he was 3-1 SU in this spot with the Heat, with his only loss coming to the 2010 Hornets behind Chris Paul, Emeka Okafor (26 points), Trevor Ariza and David West. — Evan Abrams

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.