On Thursday, the Denver Nuggets and LA Lakers face each other in a rematch of the 2023 NBA Western Conference Conference Finals. It’s their second game of the season after the opening night clash at Ball Arena, which the Nuggets won 119-107.
The marquee matchup is on the eve of late franchise legend Kobe Bryant’s statue unveiling outside the Lakers’ arena. LA will play this game in the “Black Mamba” jerseys designed by the five-time NBA champion. The team last wore it in the “Orlando Bubble” when they won a record 17th championship.
Ironically, the Lakers extended their winning streak to four games wearing this jersey after Game 2 of the 2020 conference finals against the Nuggets, ending with Anthony Davis hitting the game-winner.
LA will hope to continue their excellent form when wearing the “Black Mamba” jerseys on Thursday night and break their skid against Denver. It’s now at 0-6, including their final regular season showdown in 2022-23, the four-game sweep in the playoffs and the 2023-24 opening night.
Denver Nuggets vs. LA Lakers previews, betting tips, odds and prediction
The Nuggets-Lakers clash will begin at 10:00 pm ET (7:00 pm PT) at Crypto.com Arena. TNT will nationally cover the game, while Spectrum SportsNet (LA) and Altitude (Denver) will provide local TV coverage. Fans abroad can catch live action via NBA League Pass.
Moneyline: Nuggets -166, Lakers +140
Spread: Nuggets -3.5 (-110), Lakers +3.5 (-110)
Total (o/u): Nuggets o231 (-108), Lakers u231.5 (-112)
Denver Nuggets vs. LA Lakers preview
The Denver Nuggets enter this game tied for the No. 1 seed in the West with a 35-16 record. They haven’t lost consecutive games since Dec. 11. Denver has rarely had off nights behind another Nikola Jokic MVP campaign. He has continued to elevate his teammates while contributing efficiently, proving critical to the team’s success.
In 51 games, the Nuggets are a top-eight offense with a 118.1 efficiency and a top-11 defense with a 113.7 rating. These are remarkable numbers, considering they have had few injury-related struggles, and their depth isn’t what it was during their 2023 championship run.
Meanwhile, the LA Lakers started the season promisingly, winning the NBA In-Season Tournament on a 7-0 run. Just as they entered the top-tier conversation among contenders, the 17x champions faltered and are now battling to stay above .500, with a 27-25 record. Their fortunes changed a bit lately behind a three-game winning streak on their recently concluded East Coast trip.
The Lakers’ 20th-ranked offense with a 113.6 rating and 14th-ranked defense with 114.6 efficiency doesn’t reflect their form of late. The Lakers have won 10 of their last 16 games, with a 117.6 rated offense, 13th best in that stretch. Their defense has dropped in that span (117.4), but it’s been streaky, and LA can turn it on when needed.
Denver Nuggets vs. LA Lakers starting lineups
The Denver Nuggets come into this game with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on their injury report. He’s questionable to play with a hamstring strain.
However, he’s likely to play, considering the high stakes involved. That would see the Nuggets deploy their usual starting lineup with Caldwell-Pope and Jamal Murray as the guards, with the frontline of Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic.
Meanwhile, the LA Lakers have Anthony Davis and LeBron James as questionable, but they will likely play. The Lakers will retain the starting lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, LeBron, and Davis. LA is 2-0 with this lineup, and Darvin Ham isn’t planning on shaking things up again for the foreseeable future.
Denver Nuggets vs. LA Lakers betting tips
Nikola Jokic is favored to score over 27.5 points. He’s averaging 26.3 on the season but 30.0 points in his last nine appearances. Considering his terrific scoring run in the past few games, betting over his scoring projection would be wise.
Anthony Davis is favored to grab over 11.5 rebounds. He’s averaging 12.3 on the season and 12.8 rebounds in his last eight games. Davis had 13, seven, 18 and 15 rebounds in his past four games, respectively. The record is there to show for it, so betting over his rebounds total seems to be the right call.
LeBron James is favored to score over 24.5 points. He’s averaging 24.9 per game on the season and 25.8 in his last eight outings. LeBron has scored at least 25 in six of his past 10 games, so this is a tricky bet.
However, LeBron has often shown out in prominent games. The Lakers will need him to be at his best to topple the defending champions, so betting over his points total could be the way to go.
Denver Nuggets vs. LA Lakers prediction
The Denver Nuggets are the favorites to beat the LA Lakers, per the oddsmakers. They are unbeaten against LeBron James and Co. in their last six matchups, including the playoffs. Denver has played with an extra edge against the conference rivals, while LA has fallen short consistently.
The Nuggets will likely get the best of the Lakers again, especially amid the absences of Jarred Vanderbilt and Cam Reddish, two of LA’s best perimeter defenders. However, it could be a close contest if the Lakers get going early, especially since it’s a home game for Darvin Ham’s team.