NBA Playoffs Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 3 (Tuesday, Sept. 22)
Odds as of Tuesday at 1 a.m. ET and via BetMGM. Get an INSTANT $500 deposit match at BetMGM today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.
Sigh. We were so close to getting a real series. The Nuggets did their Nuggets thing: Denver fought back with a strong second half and took the lead late with a huge push down the stretch from Nikola Jokic.
And then Anthony Davis happened.
For all intents and purposes, that Davis shot likely ended this series. Los Angeles is -10000 to make the Finals now. The Nuggets are +2000 to advance. Neither of those odds are worth playing, but they demonstrate just how steep a hill Denver has to climb now. The Nuggets would have to beat LeBron four times in the next five games. That’s happened six times in LeBron’s playoff history. Barring a miracle, this is a wrap.
But… so was last round. And so was the round before that. But the Nuggets simply keep coming back. For almost any other team in this scenario, that would be a gut punch you just don’t come back from — not for an exhausted underdog playing its seventeenth playoff game in 33 days. But Denver is different, and if there’s one thing we know by now, it’s that they will fight all the way to the end.
But, will it matter?
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The margin for error is thin now, so the Nuggets need more than ever from their superstars. Jamal Murray scored 25 in Game 2 and was +16 in 44 minutes. Yes, that means the Lakers somehow outscored the Nuggets 19-1 in four minutes with Murray on the bench. Three minutes and 46 seconds, to be precise.
Murray has to be aggressive and look for his shot as he did in Game 2, when he had nine 3-point attempts. It was a rough shooting night, but Murray’s aggression has driven Denver this far. On nights when Jamal Murray is just the Murray we knew in the regular season, Denver isn’t good enough. But when he turns into Damian Lillard instead, starts hitting those dribble pull-up 3s and gets to 25 or 30 points, the Nuggets can compete with LA.
Denver needs another big game from Jokic too, and furthermore the Nuggets need him to be more aggressive looking for his shot. I’d like to see more 3-point attempts too. He didn’t even attempt one in Game 1 and made just one in Game 2 — his first in three games. The Nuggets are struggling to score as they deploy defenders like Torrey Craig and P.J. Dozier on the court, so Jokic and Murray have to take as many shots as they can handle.
Beyond that, Denver just needs a couple guys to hit a few random shots. Great analysis, right? But if you really think about Game 2, the truly back-breaking shots were the three treys from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, or the late 3 by Rajon Rondo.
LeBron and Davis are going to get theirs, but in the playoffs, you need a few random shots from your role players. Denver hasn’t been getting that kind of support during this series. Can Gary Harris hit a few 3s? How about Monte Morris? A couple energy buckets from Jerami Grant or Mason Plumlee, maybe? Denver needs to find a few easy points from unexpected places.
Let’s face it: The Nuggets need a lot.
The Lakers are getting those random shots from role players. KCP has three 3s in both games. Danny Green hit three as well in Game 2, and Markieff Morris did it in Game 1. When LA gets 29 combined points from KCP, Green, and Alex Caruso like it did in Game 2, the Lakers are really hard to beat.
The really unfortunate thing for the Nuggets is that LeBron hasn’t even been that good yet by his standards. James had 20 points midway through the second quarter in Game 2, but that was really his only good half of the series thus far. He did not play well during the Nuggets’ late surge, but Anthony Davis bailed him out.
Obviously, this has been Davis’s series so far. Denver has no answer for AD on either end. He’s averaging 34.0 points per game and will surely be more confident than ever after the biggest shot of his life in to clinch Game 2.
If Davis keeps playing this well, then it’s a wrap. LeBron is going to play better, and that will be enough. Those two are just too good unless one of them has an off game and the Nuggets do everything right.Betting Analysis & Pick
The series price is certainly not the play here. If you think this is a wrap, I’m not sure that’s the play either. A Lakers sweep is pricing at -125, and there’s just no value there. You’re better off just betting both Lakers games.
The line has moved a bit closer, which makes this a little more clear-cut. The Lakers have covered -6.5 in all but one of their wins this postseason — the last one, obviously. Their second-lowest margin of victory was eight points. When LA wins, it typically wins decisively.
Conversely, Denver isn’t really losing close games either. The Nuggets either win or lose comfortably for the most part. They’ve lost five times this postseason by double-digits.
So, if you like the Lakers, just bet the cover.
[Bet LA to cover now at BetMGM and get a $500 INSTANT deposit match]
But, If you like the Nuggets, I think the best play is to wait and live-bet like we did in Game 2: After a run. I pulled the trigger on +710 in Game 2 and came one Davis miracle away from the win. Wrong result; right process.
Denver backers shouldn’t settle for a cover or even the +225 pregame moneyline. The Nuggets have been about runs all postseason, on both ends. They’re almost certain to get a better moneyline somewhere in-game, and that’s the best play if you believe Denver can hang in Game 3.
So, which side is better? It’s a close call. If the Lakers are very likely to cover with a win and you’re getting that at -110, that’s a solid Lakers play. Do the Lakers win and cover 47% of the team? Yeah, I think so.
But I think the better value is on a long Denver moneyline again. The Nuggets are undeterred by an early deficit, and they’re not going to give up. If you can jump on a +400 or better moneyline, you only need 20% or better odds of a Nuggets win to pay off. And as we’ve seen from Denver, this team is simply a better bet than that number.
My gut says the Lakers win this one and put the series to bed — and that they probably cover in the process. But my brain says the Nuggets will give it one last second-half run; and when they do, I’d rather grab the long Denver moneyline odds and hope for the far higher payout.
Find the right spot, hit the Nuggets live, and hope they do their thing.
PICK: Nuggets Live Play at +400 or better.