Nuggets vs Lakers Odds, Picks, and Predictions Tonight: LeBron's 40k Night Spoiled by Champs

Whether or not Jamal Murray suits up tonight, our NBA picks like Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets to act the part of champs and deliver a focused effort against the inconsistent Lakers tonight.

Mar 2, 2024 • 15:15 ET • 4 min read
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This article contains predictions for an old game!

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LeBron James is on the edge of 40 and yet he’s still reaching new milestones as an NBA player. Not only is he closing in on 40,000 points, but he just recently pulled off the biggest fourth-quarter comeback of his career earlier this week.

But the defending champion Denver Nuggets are long past being awed by James, having beaten him in seven straight contests, including last year's Western Conference Finals sweep. NBA odds have Saturday, March 2 as a virtual dead heat, so the Los Angeles Lakers may finally have a chance to get a measure of revenge for their defeat last spring.

However, my NBA picks and predictions for Nuggets vs. Lakers expect Denver to find a way to win.

Nuggets vs Lakers odds

Nuggets vs Lakers predictions

The question for Saturday is really this: which version of these teams will show up tonight?

Each at their best, we saw in the Western Conference Finals that the Denver Nuggets are on another level than the Los Angeles Lakers.

But this isn’t a playoff game, and both teams are in different spots than they were in that series. A fresh evaluation is in order.

The Lakers just gutted out one of the most impressive wins of the season against the Los Angeles Clippers, capped off by a virtuoso performance by LeBron James, who led the 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter. But the following night, it took them overtime to dispatch the nine-win Washington Wizards.

The only consistency with the Lakers is their inconsistency. They are a team helmed by immense talents, but who can’t play at peak form every game anymore. They’re also surrounded by imperfect role players, who are for the most part strong on one side of the ball but vulnerable on the other.

The Nuggets, even potentially without the services of Jamal Murray, are a well-oiled machine. 

Over the past two weeks, they’ve won five straight games and have a +20.7 point differential per Cleaning the Glass. That includes wins over both the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors, who are otherwise running roughshod over the rest of the NBA.

Denver’s season-long point differential might not scream championship contender, but it just finds ways to win games. The Nuggets are the kind of team that can flip a switch and really ramp up their play on both ends.

For example, this is now the second year in a row that the Nugs have an elite defense in the clutch. Their defensive rating in games within five points with five or fewer minutes left to play is 96.7. When they lock in, opposing offenses shut down.

When the chips are down, the Nuggets play high-level defense, eschew the use of a traditional backup center, and Nikola Jokic commands the offense.

When they do those three things, there isn’t a team in the NBA I trust more to win. The Lakers have some fantastic moments in them, but trust doesn’t enter the equation. 

Including the playoffs, the Nuggets have won seven straight against the Lakers. I’m banking on them making it eight in a row on Saturday.

My best bet: Nuggets moneyline (+100 at betway)

Nuggets vs Lakers same-game parlay

Nuggets moneyline

LeBron James 25+ points

D’Angelo Russell 15+ points 

James is just nine points short of reaching the 40,000 points mark, and as the league’s all-time leading scorer, naturally that makes him the first player in NBA history to do so. I would imagine that he doesn’t want his record setting evening to be marred by an otherwise pedestrian performance. 

And LeBron’s performances against the Nuggets have been anything but pedestrian. While James can’t get up for every matchup like he could a decade ago, he can turn back the clock for a game against the champs on his home floor.

LeBron has added better than 27 points in four straight games now and should have had a restful Friday, as they played at home Thursday night.

D’Angelo Russell has quietly been a steady producer at guard for L.A. this season. Though he has cooled off significantly since his pre-trade deadline explosion, he’s still putting points on the board efficiently in practically every game. He shot 41.8% from downtown in February and has had at least 16 points in nine out of his last 10 games.

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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Nuggets vs Lakers spread and Over/Under analysis

The spread for Nuggets at Lakers opened with Denver originally as 1.5-point favorites. That has flipped to where L.A. are 1.5-point favorites. Perhaps that suggests some development in Murray’s game status, but that’s only speculation. 

Murray twisted his ankle during Denver's game against the Heat on Thursday. It looked bad but he walked off under his own power and apparently made an attempt to return to the court before being ruled out, so I don’t think it’s fait accompli that he’s not playing today. 

The fact is that the Lakers are the most publicly-bet team in the NBA, so it could be simple Lakers exceptionalism that has moved the line against Denver. Exceptional or not, they are just 13-16 against the spread at home this season.

Denver has also outperformed the spread in their last five games by an average of 7.9 points per Cleaning the Glass. The Lakers have undershot theirs by 5.4. By the numbers, Denver should be the favorite, and a sizeable one.

The total for Saturday opened as high as 231.5 but has since fallen to 229.5 at most sportsbooks. The Nuggets offense takes a blow if Murray is out, but in the short term, not a major one. If it means more shots for Jokic and perhaps more threes for Michael Porter Jr., they’ll find it more work to score than with Murray, but probably close to as fruitful.

The Lakers have played to the level of a Top-10 offense over the past two weeks, and their typically stout defense has been slipping. All in all, this line is appropriately set to me and there’s enough Murray uncertainty that it’s a stay away number.

Nuggets vs Lakers betting trend to know

The Lakers are just 13-16 against the spread at home this season. Find more NBA betting trends for Nuggets vs. Lakers.

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Nuggets vs Lakers game info

Location: Arena, Los Angeles, CA
Date: Saturday, March 2, 2024
Tip-off: 8:30 p.m. ET

Nuggets vs Lakers latest injuries

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