The Los Angeles Lakers missed their opportunity to close out the first round series against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. With Game 6 set for 10:30 PM ET time at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, a much tougher task will be at hand for the Lakers, who while having plenty of success at home, have simply not been the same team on the road this season. Add in the improved confidence of a Denver Nuggets team that held on to the series with a 102-99 win on the road in Game 5, and tonight’s showdown should make for a very intriguing match-up for online sportsbook betting indeed.
Pushing the tempo has been critical for the Denver Nuggets in this series, as their fast-paced offense has needed to be able to get lots of opportunities in order to support their lackluster defensive efforts. Back home in Denver, where altitude has shown to be a factor for the Lakers all season long, keeping the pace up throughout the night to wear down the twin towers of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol is job number one for the Nuggets, and that will mean running with a smaller, leaner unit for most of the game. As the series has shaped up, Denver has looked more and more like a well-rounded team capable of competing against a arguably more talented starting line-up for the Los Angeles Lakers, with six players scoring in double figures for the series thus far. Led by Danilo Gallinari at 15.8 points per game and fellow perimeter men Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo, it’s critical that once again Denver gets out to a good, fast start, and is able to control the tempo of the game from the first half on.
Also of importance is getting more good efforts from stand-up players like Andre Miller (12.8 points/game), who had an excellent Game 5 showing with 24 points and 8 assists, and JaVale McGee (10.4 ppg), the 7-foot center who was at the receiving end of those 8 Miller assists, using his quickness and surprising physical ability to put up 21 points and 14 rebounds against two of the best big men in the league. While first and foremost the pace of the game will be key for Denver, getting another big night out of their inside guys is also a huge factor; Kenneth Faried continues to be a scrappy, if undersized addition to the Nuggets’ scoring and defensive efforts, and Al Harrington should be expected to come back with more points after a dreadful 0-for-7 shooting night with just 3 points in Game 5. After having trouble adjusting to a face mask to protect his broken nose, look for him to play without it, or at least be a little more comfortable with it, and for him to have a big step-up in contribution on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Looking at the Los Angeles Lakers, fatigue will be a main area to focus on avoiding in the mile-high climate of Denver. The Lakers’ Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant all seemed to struggle a bit in Games 3 and 4 at the Pepsi Center, with scoring output reduced for the team to 84 and 92 points respectively, after putting up an average of 103.5 points per game through the first two games played at Staples Center. Denver’s game has never hedged much on solid defense, but with the Nuggets holding the Lakers to under 100 points in 3 consecutive games, it’s a cause for concern as to whether or not the Lakers will be able to mount enough of an offensive attack if Denver is able to play their fast-paced style of ball at home, and wear out the top scorers of Los Angeles. The pressure will certainly be on Kobe Bryant to set the scoring tone for the Lakers tonight, but head coach Mike Brown will definitely be looking to keep his starters fresh, meaning that step-up play has to come from the Laker bench.
That hasn’t been easy to come by this season, with one of the lowest-scoring benches in the NBA, but without getting good minutes out of guys like Jordan Hill at center, or Matt Barnes and David Ebanks at the shooting forward position, there’s simply going to be too much pressure on Kobe, Pau and Bynum to perform above and beyond expectations, that inevitably towards the end of a close game there is potential for a collapse. Most importantly for the Lakers, other than slowing the game down and sticking to half-court basketball the way they like it, is for Bynum and Gasol to have a better showing in the paint on defense, containing the upstart play of JaVale McGee. The big disadvantage for the Nuggets coming into this series was around their smaller size and their lack of a true presence in the paint to counter the twin LA 7-footers. Now that they’ve seen what McGee can do, being incredibly athletic on both the offensive and defensive glass and attacking the basket, making sure he doesn’t once again make them look foolish is priority one for Bynum and Gasol.
Betting Lines for the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets Game 6 at Intertops Sportsbook.
With confidence bubbling up despite facing elimination for the second consecutive game, the Denver Nuggets get the nod as favorites on home court tonight, with -125 odds to win straight up. Los Angeles holds +105 odds to win straight up, which could be a solid pick for underdog backers today.
Against the spread, the money is tight with the Nuggets getting -1.5 points at -110 odds, and the Lakers getting to play with +1.5 points at -110 odds. Though the scoring has tightened up in the last two games of the series (margin of victory for Game 4 -4 points, Game 5 – 3 points), with expectations of a faster-paced game tonight, we should look out for a breakaway for one team or the other tonight. With all the pressure on Los Angeles to close out, and Denver comfortable playing their style of ball at home, we like the option to take Denver with the -1.5 points here, in the hopes of making this series even more intriguing with a Game 7 back in Los Angeles this weekend.
For the over/under bets on total points, the mark is set at 197 points, as the bookmakers at Intertops also expect a resurgence in scoring tonight. However, with both previous games at Denver going for no more than 183 points, there’s a good opportunity to back the under total points wager, as Denver will push the pace but also try to surprise the Lakers with more stifling defense. Confidence is key in this game, and as such look out for the Nuggets to step-up at home and play with a similar game plan as they did in Game 3.