NBA playoffs: Betting odds, picks as Lakers continue postseason surge in Game 2 against Nuggets


While this space is usually devoted to game bets, I want to start with a futures bet that I really like. The Miami Heat are currently minus-130 to win the Eastern Conference finals. They have a 2-1 series lead. Now the Boston Celtics, as the pre-series favorite, are getting some warranted respect, and the first two games of the series were quite close. But at a certain point, Vegas can get too cute and forget that the Heat are currently two games away from the NBA Finals. 

Over a 100-game sample, Boston’s perceived superiority might lead to more wins than losses, but there are only four games left in this series. With two teams as close as these two have been in the series, minus-130 just isn’t enough of a deterrent to taking Miami with a one-game lead. That doesn’t guarantee it wins the series, but Miami going 1-3 after starting the postseason 10-2 doesn’t seem extremely likely. Now onto Sunday’s best bets. 

All lines via William Hill Sportsbook

LeBron James historically struggles in Game 1s. He entered the Western Conference with a mere 27-20 record in series openers, his worst at any point in a series, and the Lakers lost their two Game 1s in part because of underwhelming performances from James. LeBron scored only 15 points in Game 1 … and the Nuggets still lost by 12 (a deficit they cut in half during garbage time). The kiddie gloves come off for LeBron in Game 2, and if Denver couldn’t beat the weakened version of him, what hope does it have against him in Game 2?

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets: Over 213.5

The Lakers controlled the pace in Game 1, running in transition even off made shots in a way that pushed the total score to 240. There’s going to be a bit of shooting regression on their part, and free throws are going to decline as well, but as long as the Lakers can run, they can score. 

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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic Under 6.5 assists

Jokic had two assists in Game 1, and that wasn’t an accident. Unlike the Clippers, the Lakers rarely need to double Jokic in the post, doing so only when unfortunate switches demanded it. Even those holes are likely to be shored up in Game 2. Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis are more than sufficient to handle Jokic alone, and that’s going to turn him into more of a scorer than a passer. 

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