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Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers

Line: Los Angeles -7.5

Pick: Denver +7.5

Unfortunately for Denver, the result of game one was painfully obvious. The Lakers off a long layoff were more rested and ready and if that wasn’t enough of an advantage, the inevitably favourable Laker whistle came out early and often.

If there’s one way you can confirm Denver won’t win this series, it’s by playing to the officials. The young underdog is just never going to get the 50/50 calls in the conference finals.

Game one felt like a bit of an aberration in terms of the magnitude of calls LA got but the point remains, complaining will only set the Nuggets back.

Jamal Murray can’t take another technical in the middle of an offensive set to complain. Nikola Jokic can’t do his classic lazy and retaliatory foul 900 feet from his basic on an offensive board taking a swipe at a guy.

Those dumb, silly, little mistakes are the kinds of things underdogs can’t afford to do. This Lakers team is already better than them, they can’t also on top of that give them extra possessions or opportunities for points from the bonus.

The player that has to set the tone for this is Jokic. He’s the Nuggets best player firstly and secondly, he has a reputation of taking lazy fouls regularly. We saw it last game, he can’t put himself or his team at risk with his foul trouble. His impact is far too integral to this team’s success for him to be on the bench.

For Denver to pull off the upset in this series, they need Jokic to be the best player on the floor. The Lakers may technically have someone to guard him one on one in Anthony Davis but, that isn’t what makes him special. Jokic’s greatest gift is his ability to get other players incredible looks at the basket, which is something that really isn’t guardable when this team makes shots.

That was their biggest downfall in game one outside of fouling. If Murray and Jokic being forced to camp out on the bench wasn’t a big enough problem in the first half, it was made worse by the fact Denver was only able to make nine threes the entire game.

The Nuggets can’t live in a world where they make fewer three pointers than the Lakers like in game one. Distance shooting is the great equalizer in basketball but you have to actually make them for it to matter.

A bet on Denver tonight essentially says they’ll clean up the fouling, shoot a little better than 34.6% and tighten up slightly on defence enough to keep the game close at the bare minimum. In all honesty, it’s not much of an ask.

This Nuggets team is legitimately good and I think this game two could look a lot like it did in the conference semi-finals for them. After a game one in which everything went wrong, they came out and blitzed the Clippers early enough to build a big enough cushion to hold on and win the game late.

I’m not guaranteeing they win tonight but, I am a big believer they’ll make the necessary small fixes I laid out. For the most part, a majority of their mistakes in game one were mental. Bad turnovers, missing open looks, silly fouls, you know what I mean. If we’ve learned anything in this playoffs, it’s that this team is a mental juggernaut.

This team got a combined three of 18 shooting from three from Jerami Grant, Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr and Torrey Craig. Meanwhile, the Lakers got eight of 12 from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo. Those numbers scream random Laker luck that’ll even out as this series progresses.

The Lakers will win this series in about six games is my guess but that doesn’t mean they’re liable for a poor performance of their own real soon. They’ve won five straight games and nine of 10, largely shooting exceptionally well. At some point they’re going to cool down for a game or two and that I believe is tonight.

The way I see it playing out is an early Denver lead they hold on to for most of the game followed by a fourth quarter run led by LeBron and Davis that probably leads to a Lakers win but at the very least, covers the spread for the Nuggets and proves this will be a real series.

Lots of Laker fans have already made plans for the finals, tonight Denver will show that those plans are a little pre-mature.

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