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We do not have much of a body of work to look at when trying to discern whether the Lakers will defeat the Nuggets or vice versa when they play tonight in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference finals. The teams have not played since Jan. 9, long before Los Angeles made several trade deadline deals that reshaped their squad.

“This is going to be basically a new (Lakers) team for us. Probably everything is new, everything is different,” Denver center Nikola Jokic told reporters Monday. "They're playing amazing in these playoffs. Since [the trade] deadline, they're playing really well."

Yes, they are. Los Angeles dispatched the defending champion Golden State Warriors in six games in a series that ended Friday night and they took out the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. There is no shortage of star power with two-time MVP Jokic going up against four-time MVP LeBron James, and those are only the headliners.

Anthony Davis has been averaging 21.2 points and 14.1 rebounds during the postseason for the Lakers, while Denver point guard Jamal Murray has been averaging 25.9 points for the Nuggets, helping them defeat the Phoenix Suns in six games and the Minnesota Timberwolves in five in the first two rounds of the postseason.

All eyes will be glued to ESPN at 8:30 p.m. EST for the Game 1 tipoff from Ball Arena in Denver. The Nuggets have gone 7-4-0 against the spread in the playoffs while the Lakers are 8-4-0. Denver is 6-5-0 on over/unders while Los Angeles is 6-6-0.

Lakers vs Nuggets Game 1 Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NBA Playoffs Betting Lines 5/16

Moneyline: Los Angeles Lakers (+195), Denver Nuggets (-240)
Spread: Los Angeles Lakers +6.5 (-115), Denver Nuggets +5.5 (-105)
Total: Over/Under 222.5 points

Best Lakers vs Nuggets Player Prop Bets Today for Game 1 on May 16th 

LeBron James

The last time we saw him on the court, he finished one assist and one rebound shy of a triple-double while scoring 30 points in the closeout victory over the Warriors. James had not had a triple-double since Jan. 31 against the Knicks, and his last postseason triple-double was in the clincher in 2020 against the Miami Heat in the championship-winning Game 6 played in the bubble in Orlando.

Does that mean he is overdue? Well, James has 119 career postseason double-doubles and 29 career postseason triple-doubles, and he is on the Betway board at -115 to double-double and +900 to triple-double, with player props of 25.5 points, 5.5 assists and 8.5 rebounds.

Because Game 1 is typically a feel-out game, the safe pick is the over on assists, as James has surpassed 5.5 assists five times in the postseason and has shown a propensity during his 20 NBA seasons to peak in the postseason.

The Pick: James over 5.5 assists (-115).

Jamal Murray

The point guard who excelled in the 2020 playoffs has been averaging 25.2 points per game, 11th in the NBA over the postseason and up 5.2 points from his regular season average. His shooting percentage of 46.1 is up seven-tenths of a percentage point from the regular season, and the chess match move for Lakers coach Darvin Ham will be deciding who is going to defend him the most: D’Angelo Russell, Dennis Schroeder, or someone else. Murray scored 26 points in the closeout game against the Suns, and his over/under tonight is 24 ½ -- a number he has surpassed in six of 11 games. If defensive specialist Patrick Beverley had not been dealt at the deadline, this would be a lock under pick. But Beverley is on summer vacation, and neither Russell nor Schroeder is a defensive specialist.

The Pick: Murray over 24 ½ points (-115).

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Looking for a player with a little extra motivation? Well, KCP was a member of the Lakers and a teammate for James until 2021 when he was traded to Washington as part of the Russell Westbrook deal. The Nuggets picked him up last July in a deal for Will Barton and Monte Morris, and he is coming off an exceptional 21-point performance in the closeout victory over Phoenix. His point total over/under is just 9 1/2 and his assists over/under is 1 ½. He has played at least 30 minutes in seven postseason games, and the revenge factor (playing against the team that traded him) should provide the motivation for him to be a solid third or fourth option on offense for Denver behind Jokic, Murray and perhaps Michael Porter Jr.

The Pick(s): Caldwell-Pope over 9.5 points (-115) and over 1.5 assists (-110).

Odds are subject to change*

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