After being jumbled with the LA Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks in NBA title futures markets for basically a full year, the LA Lakers are now clear-cut favorites to win it all. The Lakers are -200 to win the title at DraftKings Sportsbook, followed by the Heat (+390), Celtics (+500) and Nuggets (+900).
The Nuggets – the feel good story of the NBA right now – are still struggling to get respect despite becoming the first team in league history to successfully rally from two 3-1 deficits in the same postseason.
That said, Denver was +1800 at most major sportsbooks on Tuesday. So to move to +900 is improvement. And as previously noted on this site, a bunch of bettors grabbed them at +15000 when they trailed the Jazz 3-1, and at +12500, when they trailed the Clippers 3-1.
“We have some liability on both them and the Lakers,” said Johnny Avello of DraftKings Sportsbook.
He added that of the four remaining teams, the Nuggets were drawing just a little more action than the Lakers, Heat and Celtics in the championship futures market.
Los Angeles is favored by 7 to 7.5 points for Game 1 on Friday night, while the Boston Celtics are 2.5 point favorites over Miami (the line opened at 1.5) for Game 2 despite the Heat’s 117-114 overtime victory in Game 1 Tuesday night.
At PointsBet, the book was taking 70% of bets on the Nuggets to win the series over the Lakers at odds of +430, spokesman Patrick Eichner said.
At FanDuel Sportsbook, the odds of the Lakers winning the title moved from -134 to -160 to -180 over the course of the day on Wednesday.
Despite the short odds, 80% of the handle at FanDuel in the championship futures market was on the Lakers Wednesday, with 10% on the Nuggets and 5% each on the Heat and Celtics.
Clearly, lots of folks are expecting LeBron James to win another championship.
But the Nuggets have made losers out of a lot of Clippers futures bettors, so let’s wait and see what happens.
LeBron presents a whole new challenge for Denver
The Nuggets are also the first team in NBA postseason history with three straight double-digit comeback wins when facing elimination. The Clippers blew double-digit leads of 16, 19 and 12 points in the past three games.
Now, though, the Nuggets will be going up against one off the greatest players in the history of the game in LeBron James – who knows a thing or two about advancing in the playoffs and leading teams to the NBA Finals. He has been there nine times.
The Lakers went 3-1 against the Nuggets during the regular season, including a 124-121 victory in the NBA bubble on Aug. 11 in which Kyle Kuzma hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left to win it. Denver coach Michael Malone sat his starters for the entire fourth quarter in that game and took it as a moral victory.
“For us to sit out starters the whole fourth quarter and to have the guys on the bench out there giving them all they could handle, it was a heartbreaker,” he said. “It’s always tough, but just so proud. I could not ask for a greater effort, greater focus, energy, whatever you want to call it.”
A few notes from the season series:
- In Game 1 of of the season series way back on Dec. 3, the Lakers won 105-96 as 2.5 point underdogs, and it was the only time the Under (208) hit in the four meetings. The victory started a seven-game winning streak for the Lakers, who got 25 points apiece from LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LA also held Nikola Jokic to 13.
- In Game 2 on Dec. 22, the Nuggets won 128-104 as 2.5 point underdogs, the teams combining to go 24 points over the Over/Under line of 208. James sat out because of a thoracic muscle strain.
- In Game 3 on Feb. 12, the Lakers won 120-116 in overtime as 3-point favorites. The Over/Under was 220.5. James had a triple-double of 32 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds in a matchup of what were then the teams with the two best records in the West.
- In Game 4 on Aug. 10, the teams combined for 245 points in a 3-point Lakers victory in which they failed to cover the 5.5 point spread. On the court for the Nuggets in the entire fourth quarter were Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, P.J. Dozier, Keita Bates-Diop and Bol Bol. Safe to say we won’t see that lineup again in the upcoming series.
Nuggets big underdogs for Game 1
The 7.5 point spread for Friday night is the largest of the season in games between these teams, so you have to wonder if the oddsmakers are showing Denver the proper respect. Yes, oddsmakers try to set lines so that equal amount of bets come in on each team, but this Nuggets squad is coming up with surprise after surprise after surprise.
Keep that in mind as Friday night’s Game 1 approaches. The Lakers will have had six days of rest, but the Nuggets will have had three days, which should be plenty.
Buckle up. Should be fun.