2020 NBA Playoffs: Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 3 odds, picks & predictions
The Los Angeles Lakers are feeling very good about themselves these days. After a slow start to their first two playoff series, they’ve jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. Their presumed toughest competition (LA Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks) are eliminated, and another Finals appearance for LeBron James feels inevitable.
L.A.'s Game 1 victory came in commanding fashion, cruising to a 126-114 game that never seemed much in doubt. Game 2 was hardly a repeat as the Nuggets led 103-102 with just 2.1 seconds to play until Anthony Davis hit a game-winning three as time expired, but the end result was a Lakers win.
For Game 3, the Lakers are installed as 6.5-point favorites in a game that is really a must-win for the Nuggets if they want to hold on any hope of keeping this a competitive series.
Wed, September 23 2020, 1:00 AM
Nuggets need more production from Murray
Rather shockingly, the Nuggets were +16 when Jamal Murray was on the court. He is, of course, their dynamic playmaker in the backcourt, and his presence gives the Nuggets a scoring threat to perfectly compliment big man Nikola Jokic. If the Nuggets want to spring an upset in Game 3, however, they will likely need more than two made threes from Murray.
Denver has been unable to slow down Davis
For the Lakers, Anthony Davis has finally emerged in a postseason series as a bonafide star, making major contributions when it matters most. He had 31 points and nine rebounds in Game 2, including the decisive final shot, after putting up 37 points and 10 rebounds in the Game 1 victory. Jokic is the most creative offensive big man in the game, but he is not a defensive stalwart and is unable to slow down his counterpart, especially out on the perimeter.
The other problem for the Nuggets, as is typically a problem for everybody that LeBron James faces, is that there isn’t a single player that can truly matchup and slow down the Hall of Famer. It opens the floor for others and is what has made unheralded teammates exceed expectations with James for years. Alex Caruso, an aging Rajon Rondo, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are the latest beneficiaries of this dynamic. The Nuggets will need to funnel these players and LeBron into bad shots and hope field goal percentages work in their favor.
Denver's desperation will help Nuggets prevail
In the NBA playoffs, desperation is an important factor when it comes to handicapping. Teams down 0-2 cover the first half and game lines at a winning rate (anywhere from 55-65% depending on how far back you go). Jokic and Murray will have no quit in this contest, and they know this is basically their final stand.