NBA Playoffs: Daily best bets, odds and predictions for Thursday, May 18th

By Jonathan Von Tobel  (Senior NBA Analyst) 

May 18, 2023 09:49 AM


Welcome to your source of daily analysis of the NBA Playoffs! Here we will break down each game, discuss betting angles, give predictions and more. For more discussion make sure to check out our daily NBA betting podcast: Hardwood Handicappers.

Also make sure to use each one of our betting tools at the disposal of VSiN Pro subscribers!

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Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets (-6, 223.5)

Game 2: Nuggets lead series 1-0

If you had not watched the first game of this series on Tuesday and looked only at reactions on social media you would have come away thinking Los Angeles had stolen another game on the road to open a series. However, that is not the case. 

Yes, the Lakers “made an adjustment” by having Rui Hachimura defend Nikola Jokic in the fourth quarter, which in turn allowed Anthony Davis to help on his drives to the rim. In the six plays - only six - in which Hachimura was the primary defender Jokic went 0-for-2 from the floor, committed two turnovers and the Nuggets averaged 0.67 points per possession. There are quite a few who believe that means it's curtains for the top seed in the Western Conference, but there are actually adjustments that can be made by the other side.

Part of the reason that strategy worked so well in the fourth quarter was because of Davis’ ability to help, but he was able to help so effectively because Aaron Gordon was camped out in the dunker spot. With Gordon so close to the rim and Davis there guarding him it created an easy opportunity for Davis to help off and contest Jokic along with Hachimura. A simple tweak is going to be Gordon camping in the corner as opposed to the dunker spot. That adjustment will put Davis farther from the basket, and force him to cover more ground as a help defender. It also means that Gordon is going to get a few corner 3-point attempts in this game, and the onus will be on him to make Los Angeles pay for leaving him.

There was also a chorus of folks who made sure to point out that Denver’s shooting could not be sustained, and I would agree with that. The Nuggets went 15-of-32 from beyond the arc overall and 12-of-24 on above-the-break 3-point attempts. That is not likely to happen again, but the same could be said for Los Angeles. The Lakers went 11-of-24 from deep in the first game, with most of that production coming from Austin Reaves who went 5-of-9 in the contest. The Nuggets might not be able to shoot 46.9% from deep again, but the probability of an above average shooting night from Denver is still much higher than it is for Los Angeles which is shooting 33.7% as a team this postseason.

The betting market is backing the zig-zag here, and we’re seeing support for the Lakers in the market. This number is down to 5.5 consensus, but there does not seem to be any indication the line will drop any farther than that. I believe the Nuggets are the side tonight, but the line is right in line with what I made it. If it does continue to drop then a play for Denver will be in order, but my price of 4.5 is still far off and unlikely to appear.

So, instead of a side or total I’ll be building on the angle that Los Angeles is going to lean on its Hachimura strategy. If that is the case, then Davis will be on Gordon and helping off of him regularly, and that will mean plenty of opportunities for Gordon to make the Lakers pay from distance. His number for made 3-point attempts is 0.5 shaded to the over at -130 over at DraftKings, and that is a playable price given the likelihood of the opportunities he will get tonight.

Best Bet: Aaron Gordon OVER 0.5 3PM (-130)

Lean: Nuggets (-5.5)

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