A few months ago just reaching the NBA Playoffs seemed like a longshot for the Los Angeles Lakers. A few roster adjustments at the trade deadline put the Lakers on the right path and they’ve been one of the best since. Including their play-in tournament win over Minnesota the Lakers are 9-4 since the conclusion of the regular season and will face the best team in the Western Conference finals after knocking off the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Denver Nuggets sat atop the standings most of the season finishing 10 games better than the Lakers and homecourt advantage could be huge. The Nuggets had the second-best home record in the NBA during the regular season and they are a perfect 6-0 at home during the postseason with five payouts. Both their wins over LA during the season came in Denver by double figures. The Lakers are catching 4.5-points on the opening line.
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NBA Playoffs Schedule for Tuesday, May 16
LA Lakers at Denver, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
NBA Playoffs Picks for Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Being the No. 7 seed there was little hope the Lakers would get homecourt in a series. And when the eight-seed Timberwolves lost in the first round that became a given. Playing on the road hasn’t bothered LA, though, winning the first game in each of their first two series to quickly steal the advantage. They thumped Memphis 128-112 as a 5-point dog in the opening round and beat Golden State 117-112 to start the second round. And as it turns out that was all they needed since LA is also perfect at home since the regular season ended.
When the Lakers won their 17th NBA title back in 2020, the duo of Anthony Davis and LeBron James was nearly unstoppable. They combined to average nearly 60 points in the five game West final win over Denver. And the clamped down on Nikola Jokic in that series, though that was pre-MVP Jokic they were playing.
AD and James are playing at a high level again leading LA. James was 10 of 14 for 30 points in the series clinching 122-101 win over the Warriors while Davis scored 17 points with 20 boards. And unlike the 2020 title team, the Lakers have more balance thanks to their deadline acquisitions. James is averaging 23.4 points with Davis at 21.2 through 12 playoff games. D’Angelo Russell, one of the club’s midseason acquisitions, and backcourt mate Austin Reaves bother are averaging more than 15 points.
LA dominated Golden State inside taking advantage of their superior size. Davis not only scored at will but was a force defensively. And when the Warriors had trouble connecting from deep that was all she wrote. This series figures to be much different, however, simply because the Nuggets have Jokic. The former MVP can do it all negating AD’s effectiveness as a defender.
Jokic had another MVP-type season narrowly missing averaging a triple-double with 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists. If it was even possible he’s having a better postseason with 30.7 points, 12.8 boards and 9.7 assists. Jokic has helped the Nuggets be one of the most efficient teams offensively during the postseason. They average nearly 116 points while shooting 49 percent from the field overall.
Denver scored at least 114 points in five of their six games against Phoenix with their four wins all decided by double digits with a margin of plus-17.3 points with the OVER 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Their wins over LA during the season were by 11 and 13 points. Jokic had a triple-double with 14 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds when the teams last met in January. However, the Lakers didn’t have AD and LeBron in the lineup and their roster was completely different than what it looks like today. The new pieces have fit in seamlessly and the Lakers are fearless on the road giving them an edge in Tuesday’s matchup.
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