Nuggets vs Lakers Picks, Prediction Today | Saturday, March 2

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LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers plays defense against the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

Nuggets vs. Lakers Prediction, Picks for Saturday, March 2

Saturday, March 2
8:30 p.m.
ABC
Nuggets +1

Here's everything you need to know about Nuggets vs. Lakers on Saturday, March 2 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today.

The Los Angeles Lakers continue their six-game homestand with the Nuggets coming to town as LeBron James needs only nine points to become the first NBA player to reach the 40,000-scoring mark. At 39, James is proving that age is just a number as he continues to put up mouthwatering numbers. He's averaging 25.3 points, 7.9 assists and 7.1 rebounds.

But what truly impresses me the most about James is his constant commitment to improving his game. After shooting 32.1% on 3-pointers last season, James is currently shooting a career-best 40.8% from beyond the arc.

Two games ago, he single-handedly willed his team to a 116-112 victory after rallying from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Clippers. James' 19 points in the fourth quarter was more than the 16 the Clippers scored.

Unfortunately, we've repeatedly seen this Lakers team get off to slow starts before needing a last-gasp effort to escape defeat. We saw a similar occurrence in their next game when the Lakers trailed against the lowly Wizards in the final minute of the fourth quarter before winning in overtime.

And while some might view those back-to-back wins as a sign of momentum for the Lakers, I question whether it's sustainable against a quality team like the Nuggets.

Let's get to our Nuggets vs. Lakers prediction and pick.


Nuggets vs. Lakers Prediction

Pick: Nuggets +1 (-117 via BetRivers)

Nuggets Betting Outlook

While James will undoubtedly be the headline on Saturday night, the Nuggets continue to go about their business quietly. The Nuggets are riding a five-game winning streak, yet I feel no one's talking about the defending champions.

Denver's been dominant during this run, boasting an average margin of victory of 15.6 points. Nikola Jokic posted a triple-double in four of the five games and probably locked up a third MVP award with those performances.

The Nuggets are one of the more difficult teams to assess because it's not like the roster is littered with super-athletic players. Denver kind of does things their way as they're not a team that plays super fast (29th in pace) or jacks up a ton of 3-point shots (27th in 3-point field goals).

Yet, the Nuggets are 41-19 on the year and trail the Timberwolves by one game for the top seed in the Western Conference.

I've come to realize that all these Nuggets' stats we can't seem to make sense of really boil down to one player — Jokic. It's because of Jokic that the Nuggets play at such a slow pace, given his involvement in running the offense as the team's primary facilitator and even sometimes bringing the ball up the court.

Jokic impacts the game on both ends of the floor, as Denver is one of three teams ranked in the top 10 for offense and defensive efficiency.

By limiting the number of possessions, Denver ensures the game is played closer to their tempo—thus benefiting Jokic's more deliberate playing style.


Lakers Betting Outlook

This season, the one thing I've felt that's been consistent about Los Angeles has been its inconsistency. Of the 18 teams in the league with a winning record, the Lakers (34-28) are the only one with a negative point differential.

Moreover, based on their Pythagorean win expectancy, ESPN's Relative Percent Index projects the Lakers' record should be closer to a 30-32.

While there's no question the Lakers have a talented roster, I think they cheat the game of basketball a bit too much for my liking. For example, the Lakers seem to think they can flip a switch and go from 0 to 100, but that's not possible, given the level of competition in the NBA.

One of the more comical recollections about the Lakers was how James was vehemently opposed to the thought of a play-in tournament. However, the tournament might be the Lakers' only chance to reach the playoffs as they're currently the 10th seed in the conference and the sixth-seeded Pelicans by three games.

The Lakers remain an untrustworthy team in my eyes, as they're 28-34 (45.2%) against the spread this season, and as a favorite they've been worse, as evidenced by their 14-20 (41.2%) mark.

With James closing in 40,000 points, there's always the chance that this team is a bit distracted heading into this game. Remember last season when James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time scoring leader? The Lakers would lose the game (133-130) as a 6.5-point favorite against the Thunder.

Los Angeles trailed by as much as 15 points in the game and even 13 points within the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.

This is a business trip for the Nuggets, and I don't expect this veteran team to be phased by all the pomp and circumstance of James reaching the 40,000-point scoring mark.


Nuggets vs. Lakers Picks, Odds

Saturday, March 2
8:30 p.m.
ABC
Nuggets Odds
SpreadOver/UnderMoneyline
+1
-110
227
-110 / -110
-112
Lakers Odds
SpreadOver/UnderMoneyline
-1
-110
227
-110 / -110
-104
Odds via DraftKings . Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

I've watched several Nuggets games this season, and I've concluded that certain teams simply don't match up well against them when defending Jokic in the paint. The Lakers are one of those teams, as the Nuggets have won the last seven meetings, which include the four-game sweep in the Western Conference Finals.

The Nuggets have also covered the spread in four straight games against the Lakers.

At the moment, the Nuggets are dominating their opponents, and I especially wouldn't want to go against them, given the kind of form Jokic is currently showing.

We've seen some teams put together some long-winning streaks this season, and our Action Labs database shows that underdog teams with five straight wins are 8-3 (72.7%) against the spread in this spot. With the Nuggets catching one point at BetRivers, my model shows close to a two-point edge with the visitors—enough to sanction a play at the current price.

Pick: Nuggets +1 (-117 via BetRivers)

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