The Denver Nuggets (61-32) are back in action tonight to start their Western Conference Finals series against the Los Angeles Lakers (51-44). The Nuggets last played on Thursday night when they finished off the Phoenix Suns, and the Lakers wrapped up their series against the Golden State Warriors the next night. Each team has had a little bit of time to rest and prepare for their final hurdle ahead of the NBA Finals.

For the Nuggets, the ship has stayed firmly on course. After securing the top spot in the Western Conference, they’ve maintained home-court advantage in both series with a sparkling 6-0 record thus far. They’ve gotten production from just about everybody on the roster throughout these playoffs, and the key is just making sure everyone stays engaged every single night.

For the Lakers, they’ve received a massive facelift since they last played the Nuggets on January 9th. Dennis Schroder is the only player that started that night for the Lakers that’s still in the rotation, and three of those five starters finished the season on different teams, including Thomas Bryant, who finished the year with Denver. This new-look Lakers’ lineup has given teams fits for the last couple of months, and they’re knocking on the door of the finals.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (61-32, 40-7 home) vs Los Angeles Lakers (51-44, 24-15 away)

When: 6:30 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. ESPN. Show up in Denver. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Expected Starting Lineups:

LAL: PG Dennis Schroder, SG D’Angelo Russell, SF Austin Reaves, PF LeBron James, C Anthony Davis

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Jamal Murray (illness) QUESTIONABLE, Anthony Davis (foot) PROBABLE, LeBron James (foot) PROBABLE, Mo Bamba (ankle) OUT

Three Things to Watch

Watch the Whistle

When these two teams met in the playoffs in the bubble back in 2020, Nikola Jokic was racking up fouls left and right. He had four or five fouls in all five games of the series. He was averaging a foul every 7.3 minutes on the floor compared to one every 11.6 minutes this postseason. The Lakers have been great at drawing fouls since the trade deadline. If Jokic picks up a couple of quick fouls, the team’s game plan could shift on the fly.

Get Set on Defense

In the two games the Nuggets lost against the Suns, Phoenix was able to get out and run. With Anthony Davis on the boards, the Lakers are going to secure a lot of defensive possessions. Denver has to make sure they get back and limit free and easy baskets. If that means they get one or two fewer offensive rebounds per game, then so be it, but they have to limit the easy points. 

Involve Everyone

Jokic and Jamal Murray are going to be who this offense runs through the majority of the time, but keeping the rest of the guys on the floor involved makes everyone’s life easier. It also gives players more reason to lock on the defensive end. We’ve seen through each of his first four seasons that Michael Porter Jr. is more engaged on both ends when he’s flowing on offense. If you can get the other guys involved early on in the game, the floor will open up as the games goes along.

The Betting Angles

The Nuggets are favored by 6 (-110 at Bet365) and the total is set with an over/under of 222.5. A pick on Denver on the moneyline is -240. Player Props are big in this matchup with BetMGM saying the #1 most bet prop is the over on Jamal Murray’s points + assists at 31.5 (-110).

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