Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James gesturing during a game against the Denver Nuggets. The … [+] Lakers and Nuggets are set to meet in the Western Conference Finals of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets are gearing up to compete in Western Conference Finals, with Game 1 beginning tonight. It has the makings of an excellent series, pitting a star-studded, powerhouse Lakers squad that many have been predicting to win it all since the preseason against an underdog Nuggets team that has repeatedly defied expectations to make it this far into the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Los Angeles—led by a pair of superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis—breezed through the first two rounds of the postseason, losing just two games in total up to this point. Denver, on the other hand, became the first team in NBA history—and just the third in any of the four major American professional sports—to win back-to-back series after falling into a 3-1 deficit in each.
While the Nuggets have certainly proved their resilience, oddsmakers believe their unlikely journey through the 2020 NBA Playoffs will end in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers opened as heavy favorites to advance to the NBA Finals with a -575 betting line, which translates to one needing to risk $5.75 to win $1 on Los Angeles winning the series. Denver is a +460 underdog, odds that would return $4.60 for each $1 wagered on the upset. Bookmakers expect it to be a short series, with a 4-1 Lakers victory the most likely outcome based on the prop betting odds up on the board. The +225 odds on this series ending with Los Angeles advancing in five games translates to a 30.8% implied probability, followed closely by a 4-2 LA win (25% probability), a Lakers sweep (23.5%) and Los Angeles winning in seven (16.7%).
If the Nuggets defy the odds, shops are predicting it will be in a Western Conference Finals that goes the distance, putting +1000 odds on that outcome which indicate a 9.1% implied probability. It’s hardly a surprise given the Lakers are a massive favorite amongst the four clubs remaining to win the 2020 NBA Finals, with bettors needing to pony up $2.25 to win $1 on the franchise celebrating its record-tying 17th championship. The Nuggets are tied with the Celtics—who had their price drop considerably after going down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat—at the bottom of the list with 9-1 odds to win their first ever Finals.
Will the Lakers continue their romp through the 2020 NBA Playoffs with a statement win in Game 1 this evening, or will the Nuggets once again shock the world by pulling yet another upset on the heels of a Game 7 win over the Clippers? The bookies believe Los Angeles already has this in the bag, installing the Lakers as seven-point favorites for the Western Conference Finals opener. The betting public is relatively split on Game 1, although the underdog holds a slight edge in support with 53% of wagers on Denver. The sharp bettors are going chalk, however, as 59% of the total handle is on the Los Angeles side, a trend that has forced most shops to adjust the point spread slightly after opening it at LA -6.5.
If you are looking to make an informed decision on how you should bet this critical contest, check out pro handicapper Jon Price’s prediction below. Before getting to the SportsInformationTraders.com expert pick for Game 1, take a look at the updated 2020 NBA Playoff bracket, plus complete schedule, start times, TV channel, live stream site, betting trends and more for the upcoming Western Conference Finals.
Every game of the 2020 Western Conference Finals will be televised by TNT and live streamed via WatchTNT. All matchups will take place on a neutral court at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World, Florida.
These teams most recently met at the Orlando bubble on August 10th in a hard-fought game that the Lakers won straight-up, 124-121, but failed to cover the spread in as 5.5-point chalk.
The Lakers outright won three of their four matchups with the Nuggets during the 2019-20 NBA season. Each team covered the spread twice during their regular season series.
Los Angeles has covered in 70% of its games (7-3) during the 2020 NBA Playoffs, while Denver is only a tick behind with a 69.2% cover rate (9-4-1).
The Nuggets went 18-14-1 ATS as an underdog during the 2019-20 campaign, while the Lakers were 35-35-1 ATS when laying points in the same span.
LeBron James spoke about how tough of an opponent the Nuggets are and said he isn’t underestimating what they are capable of (via ESPN):
“Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team. It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. That’s how we’re going into this series: understanding what they’re capable of, where they stand. »
ESPN pointed out that the Lakers have not made it this far into the NBA Playoffs in a decade:
ESPN Stats & Info posted that Denver is the only team in NBA history to claw out of a 3-1 series deficit more than once during a single postseason run:
State Muse found that Nuggets star Nikola Jokic put his own name in the NBA record books with his Game 7 performance against the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals:
Anthony Davis gave the scouting report on how difficult it is to contain his big man counterpart in Denver, Nikola Jokic (h/t EssentiallySports.com via TheAthletic.com):
He’s a tough guy to guard. For me, those are always fun matchups for me because it makes me play defense. Makes me compare where I am defensively against a great offensive player. But it’s always been fun for me playing against him. I get to do it for an entire series.A lot of ways he can beat you. He’s got his own pace. He’s never sped up. He is never rushed. He plays at his own pace, and it works for him. He’s been very successful at that. It works for the team.”
SportsCenter tweeted that the Lakers now boast the first pair of First Team All-NBA teammates since the 2006-07 Phoenix Suns:
Rachel Nichols interviewed Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic after their Game 7 victory, who warned their upcoming opponent that the Nuggets shouldn’t be taken lightly:
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel thinks that his squad could be upset by any of the other clubs still remaining in the 2020 NBA Playoffs and noted that a number of players on the LA roster lack championship-level experience (via SI.com):
“Any one of these three teams remaining can beat us, and the Denver Nuggets are a terrific basketball team. So are the Boston Celtics, so are the Miami Heat. So while we have players that have been there, we’ve not been there as a group yet. So we’re still super hungry to get the job done, recognizing and respecting the opponents that are still remaining.”
NCAA March Madness threw it back to the 2016 SEC Championship Game to showcase a battle between Denver’s Jamal Murray and Los Angeles’ Alex Caruso, who played college ball at Kentucky and Texas A&M, respectively.
Bleacher Report noted that these teams last met in the Western Conference Finals back in 2009
Nuggets head coach Mike Malone doesn’t want his squad to be content with simply reaching the 2020 Western Conference Finals and said his players need to better prepared for a well-rested foe than they were to start the semifinals against the Clippers immediately following another Game 7 victory (via DenverPost.com):
“I think the biggest question, aside from the scheme and plays and personnel is, ‘Are our guys satisfied?’…The Lakers aren’t coming up for air. They’ve been waiting. And I know LeBron, having been around him. They’re going to come out and try to send a message (Friday). And I don’t think their guys are satisfied. That’s going to be our greatest challenge (Friday). Can we match their intensity? And I thought in Game 1 against the Clippers, we did for a quarter-and-a-half, (we) just did not sustain it. I think we were just gassed. And I think, hopefully, we’re able to put forth a 48-minute effort.”
I’ve been working in the realm of sports my entire career, starting as a breaking news writer right out of Arizona State University. After three years of writing, I
I’ve been working in the realm of sports my entire career, starting as a breaking news writer right out of Arizona State University. After three years of writing, I jumped to the business side of the industry as a senior research analyst for two major corporations. I’m now combining both of these experiences together to come up with some great content for you to enjoy at Forbes!
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