The Lakers head to Denver to take on the Nuggets for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. The game is expected to tip-off at 08:30 PM ET, Tuesday, May 16th, 2023.
Given how strong the Nuggets have been at home, it’s no surprise they come into Game 1 a 6 point favorite, with many expecting them to take an early 1-0 series lead.
The Nuggets have a historical disadvantage against the Lakers in playoff series, never having beaten them before. This includes three losses in the Western Conference finals in 1985, 2009, and 2020.
However, the Nuggets have a chance to change that narrative in the upcoming Western Conference finals, as they aim to secure their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals. With home-court advantage as the top seed and a strong record at Ball Arena, the Nuggets are determined to make history.
While the Lakers were previously the higher seed in their conference finals meetings, this time they enter the series as underdogs. Despite rebuilding their roster and achieving playoff success as the seventh seed, the Lakers face a formidable Nuggets team that has dominated at home.
The outcome will heavily rely on the performances of star players, with the Lakers needing to find a way to limit the impact of Nuggets’ standout Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets, on the other hand, are determined to reach the Finals, and their fans are particularly motivated by the opportunity to defeat the Lakers.
Both teams have health concerns heading into Game 1. Nuggets’ guard Jamal Murray is listed as questionable due to a non-COVID illness, while Lakers’ player Mo Bamba is doubtful with a left ankle issue. Despite these challenges, both teams are prepared to give their all and compete for a spot in the NBA Finals.
ODDS AND PREDICTIONS
Opting to support Denver in Game 1 might be the safer choice. Although the Lakers have won as underdogs in the first game of the playoffs twice, they haven’t played in high-altitude conditions since January 9th. In my opinion, Denver’s home-court advantage in the playoffs outweighs the Lakers’ 2-0 record in Game 1s.
Denver has been successful as a home favorite, covering the spread in 61.9 percent of games with an average victory margin of 10.3 points. Additionally, they have a strong track record as favorites in the -5 to -7 range, going 12-5 against the spread. Including the opener of Game 1 in that range, they are 21-12 ATS as favorites of -3 to -7 points.
The Lakers may have benefited from facing an arrogant and fatigued Memphis team in the first round, coming off an emotional Game 7 victory just 48 hours prior. However, those advantages won’t be present in this matchup. Denver’s dominance at home will continue in Game 1.
Spread: Nuggets -6
Moneyline: Nuggets -240, Lakers +198
Pick: Nuggets -6
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