Lakers vs Nuggets Preview and Free Pick [Game 1]

LA Lakers (0-0) at Denver (0-0)
When: Tuesday, May 16th 2023
Where: Ball Arena,
Denver, CO

Time: 8:30 ET | TV: ESPN
Opening Odds: Denver -5/222.5

The Western Conference finals are set and it’s a bit of a surprise matchup between the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers and top-seeded Denver Nuggets. It’s also a rematch of the 2020 conference finals in the Orlando bubble. Los Angeles went on to win that series in five games and won the NBA Championship. Denver will have the homecourt advantage in this series after the 2020 matchup was played on a neutral court with zero fans in attendance.

It looked as if the Lakers would miss the playoffs this season but a late season surge got them into the Play-In round and they have carried that momentum to within four wins of reaching another NBA Finals. L.A. took care of both the Memphis Grizzlies and defending champion Golden State Warriors in six games each. The true test comes now against a Denver team hungry for a championship.


The Nuggets have needed one less game than L.A. to get to the conference finals. Denver breezed past Minnesota 4-1 in round one, then fended off the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in the second round. The Nuggets are a stark contrast to the Lakers as far as playoff success goes. The Nuggets have zero NBA Finals trophies and zero conference championship, while the Lakers have won 17 NBA Finals and 19 conference titles.

The home team won all four regular season meetings and covered the spread in each as well. The most recent meeting, however, was way back on Jan. 9 – a 122-109 Nuggets win at Ball Arena as 12.5-point favorites. The Nuggets are favored in this series including Game 1 on Tuesday. Denver is laying 6 points with a total of 222.5.

White Darvin Ham’s squad is led by Anthony Davis and LeBron James, it’s the supporting cast that has been a surprise. D’Angelo Russell has rejuvenated himself, while Rui Hachimura, Dennis Schroder and Austin Reaves have contributed to the second half run.

The Lakers can easily go 10-deep with the depth they have and five players are averaging at least 11 points a game this postseason. James is leading the way with 23.4 points, followed by Davis at 21.2. Both of them are also averaging over 10 rebounds per contest, while Hachimura is a sizzling 53% from beyond the arc.

The obvious leader of the Nuggets is two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 30.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 9.7 assists in the playoffs. Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon are also excelling, along with veterans Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. Denver’s offense is averaging 118.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Denver is also winning the rebounding battle, leading the postseason with a 54.1 percent rebound rate.

These are definitely the two best teams left in the West, despite the Lakers being a seven seed. L.A. has had trouble on the road lately and don’t fare well in Denver. The Nuggets have covered 23 of their last 32 home games and are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven versus the Lakers at home. Denver wants this bad and I think they get the job done at home in Game 1.

Check out who Bobby Babowski has on his Free NBA Picks page for today.

Pick: Nuggets -6