ESPN's fantasy basketball and basketball betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data, featuring ESPN's proprietary Basketball Power Index (BPI) to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for Thursday are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.
What you need to know for Lakers-Nuggets Game 2
The Denver Nuggets seek a commanding two-game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in a bid for the franchise's first trip to the NBA Finals. Not that this is lost on hoops fans, but Nikola Jokic is playing the best basketball of his already incredible career. Which is to say, it's hard to imagine fading him in DFS tournaments or in prop markets.
Even "Joker's" 3-point prop appears enticing, as it is often found at plus money for him to sink at least two 3-pointers. The Lakers have a clear agenda to push Jokic's playmaking from the post out to the perimeter, but this is also a player making more than half of his shots beyond the arc in the playoffs while making multiple such shots in seven of his twelve playoff appearances this spring. In a pick your poison approach, Jokic can still do damage. Teammates Bruce Brown and Jamal Murray make for savvy complementary plays, especially given how well Murray shot against the Lakers' backcourt in the series opener.
While Anthony Davis' defense against Jokic appeared inviting at times this past Tuesday, it might have gotten lost that he posted a 40-point double-double in the process. There really isn't a defender on Denver's roster capable of limiting Davis in the post, making him a nice pivot from Jokic for a unique DFS build. Scoring props also appear attractive given how Denver could struggle to slow the "Brow." Austin Reeves, meanwhile, remains the key third Lakers' contributor on offense.
-- Jim McCormick
Breaking down Lakers-Nuggets Game 2
Records (Against the Spread)
Lakers: 43-39 (39-41-2)
Nuggets: 53-29 (44-37-1)
Line: Nuggets (-5.5) Total: 227
BPI Projection: Nuggets by 2.6
Money Line: Lakers (+192), Nuggets (-235)
Lakers: Anthony Davis, (GTD - Foot); LeBron James, (GTD - Foot); Mo Bamba, (OUT - Ankle)
Nuggets: None reported
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play
Best bet: Nikola Jokic over 10.5 assists (+108). I originally planned to wager on a triple-double at -123 but I'd rather need 11 assists at +108 than 10 assists and also double-digit rebounds and points. After all, Jokic did only grab four rebounds in a 53-point performance in Game 4 against Phoenix. The Lakers will likely change their lineup and defensive scheme in Game 2 but Jokic is an unsolvable riddle. Denver's offense runs through him and his supporting cast can make shots. -- Doug Kezirian
Best bet: Nikola Jokic over 53.5 points + rebounds + assists. Joker went off for 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists in Game 1 and there's no reason the Nuggets won't continue to play through him again tonight. His total was 69 PAR in that one so he can actually do 15 fewer across the board tonight and still hit. I doubt he goes for 34 points and 21 boards tonight, but 28 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists will get the job done. Until the Lakers prove they can stop him, I'm going to continue to ride the Jokic train. -- Steve Alexander
Best bet: Michael Porter Jr. over 21.5 points+rebounds. Jokic and Jamal Murray came together in a spectacular display, combining for a staggering 65 points, 26 rebounds, and 19 assists in Game 1. As we head into Game 2, it's evident that the Lakers will prioritize containing Jokic and Murray. But here's where it gets intriguing: this sets the stage for Porter to have a monster game. With his current playoff averages of 14.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, Porter is poised to exceed those numbers, especially with Austin Reaves as his primary defender. -- Eric Moody
Best bet: Jamal Murray to score 11.5 points vs. D'Angelo Russell (-125). Russell should see less playing time in Game 2 after his poor defense was exposed. Lakers coach Darvin Ham might remove him from the starting lineup but regardless, I expect less than the 26 minutes we saw in the series opener. Lonnie Walker, Rui Hachimura and even Jarred Vanderbilt all proved more effective off the bench than Russell, who had a plus-minus of -25, which was by far the worst of any player. Additionally, I would rather play this matchup prop instead of Russell under 13.5 points because even if he does score a decent amount, Murray can still win the matchup because he's such an offensive force. I feel there are more ways to win this matchup prop rather than just betting one of their individual props. -- Kezirian
Best bet: LeBron James over 6.5 assists. In Game 1, James dazzled with nine assists, showcasing his incredible playmaking skills. Throughout the playoffs, he's averaged 5.6 assists per game. Now, heading into Game 2, it's crystal clear that a collective team effort will be key to securing a win. This sets the stage for James to thrive as a facilitator. -- Moody
Best bet: Nuggets -5.5. The Nuggets won Game 1 by six points and there's no reason they can't do it again in Game 2. Unlike the Celtics, who have been struggling at home, the Nuggets are now 7-0 at home and only one of those games was even close. Denver should roll again tonight. -- Alexander
Best bet: Anthony Davis over 24.5 points. Davis had 40 points, 10 rebounds and a huge stat line in Game 1 and while the Lakers didn't win, it wasn't because of AD. He's healthy, hasn't been to the locker room (or in street clothes) in several games and should be ready for another feast against the Nuggets tonight. -- Alexander
Best bet: Austin Reaves over 15.5 points. Reaves played 42 minutes in Game 1 and scored 23 points. He has scored at least 15 points in four straight games and could fade at any time but the minutes have been there and the Lakers need his outside shooting if they're going to steal Game 2 in Denver. If he shoots it at least 14 times, which he should, this should be an easy hit. -- Alexander