At this point, a fan has to ask if the Lakers are still the Lakers of lore.
Against them this afternoon, the Nuggets are clinging to the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, a glorious position compared to Los Angeles’ struggles to remain in the play-in. At the moment, LeBron & Co. are on the outside looking in.
They cannot change that reality on their own, but preserving any hope of sneaking back into the playoffs will begin with a win today against Denver.
Here are our free NBA picks and predictions for the Nuggets at the Lakers on April 3, with tip set for 3:30 p.m.ET.
Nuggets vs Lakers odds
This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.
The Nuggets opened as 3.5-point favorites on Saturday night, a number that reached -4 at a few books before Sunday’s earliest hours. The total opened at either 230 or 231, depending on the book.
Nuggets vs Lakers predictions
Predictions made on 4/3/2022 at 4:30 a.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.
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Nuggets vs Lakers game info
• Location: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA
• Date: Sunday, April 3, 2022
• Tip-off: 3:30 p.m. ET
• TV: ABC
Nuggets vs Lakers betting preview
Nuggets: Jeff Green SF (Questionable), Jamal Murray SG (Doubtful), Michael Porter Jr. PF (Out).
Lakers: Carmelo Anthony SF (Probable), LeBron James SF (Questionable), Anthony Davis PF (Questionable), Kendrick Nunn PG (Out).
Find our latest NBA injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Nuggets are 1-4 ATS in their last five games, covering only as 3-point favorites at Charlotte in a 113-109 victory. Find more NBA betting trends for Nuggets vs. Lakers.
Nuggets vs Lakers picks and predictions
Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.
The Nuggets may have plenty at stake in every game moving forward, but they do so because they are already worn out. Denver has covered the spread in only two of its last eight games, a series of undoings riddled with miserable opponents like the Thunder and the Pacers.
The Nuggets may have won those games to keep the Timberwolves at arm’s reach in the race for the No. 6 seed, but they did so only by the figurative skin of their teeth. No one should brag about beating the Thunder or the Pacers by single digits.
As bad as the Lakers have been of late — going 4-15 straight-up since the All-Star break, second-worst in the NBA, ahead of only the Blazers — they are still better than the Thunder and the Pacers. At least, when a certain player by the name of LeBron James is on hand, the Lakers are better than the Thunder and the Pacers.
LeBron has played in 15 of the Lakers’ 19 games since the late-season pause, Los Angeles going 4-11 in those appearances. That is still far from a strong showing. Actually, let’s not be generous. That is outright atrocious.
But he is still LeBron. And the Nuggets are still worn out.
A thin Denver roster has struggled of late. The Nuggets have held on by the slimmest of margins, but even that slim margin has included a 4-4 SU stretch in their last eight. Nikola Jokic may be an MVP frontrunner, but against the Lakers, his sole existence on Denver’s roster may be exploited.
Anthony Davis and LeBron James are the rare defenders who can match up against Jokic? Their length and size should slow him a bit more than any other team is able, and once Jokic slows, the Nuggets’ offense collapses. Without Jamal Murray and/or Michael Porter Jr. at full strength, an inefficient Jokic is a losing proposition for play-in-bound Denver.
Prediction: Lakers +4 (-110 at FanDuel)
This particular handicapper has raised this issue before, to some success. This handicapper will mention this concept again. NBA players like to nap. Any mid-afternoon game should be looked at with that knowledge in mind.
Veterans, especially, treasure their afternoon naps between shootaround and pregame warm-ups. A season of “three-hour naps” can be survived only with those naps. Without them, rhythm is ruined, and ruined rhythm costs offensive performances more than anything else.
And these are two veteran teams, Bones Hyland and Talen Horton-Tucker aside.
This approach is not unimpeachable. It went 0-2 on Saturday, though 1-1 in first-half totals. But over the long run, betting against efficient offensive performances during nap’o’clock is a winning bet.
Prediction: Under 231 (-110 at FanDuel)
The logic here is simple: The Nuggets need to win to avoid the worry of losing the No. 6 seed. Even with a loss, Denver is a game ahead of Minnesota, thus not yet in danger of falling into the play-in.
Meanwhile, the Lakers need to win to have hopes of reaching the playoffs at all. In other words, if LeBron wants to be in the playoffs, he needs to activate playoff mode immediately.
Who wants to bet against playoff LeBron?
That is the entirety of the logic. It is not complicated. But to flesh it out a touch, the only Nuggets defenders genuinely large enough to defend LeBron James are the likes of Aaron Gordon and DeMarcus Cousins or Jokic?. None of them are known for their defense, and that is with reason. None of them are that strong on the defensive end of the floor, Cousins a notable liability on his own.
The size of James and Davis should help Los Angeles find its footing, if only for today.
Pick: Lakers moneyline (+148 at FanDuel)
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