After a rare day off on Monday, the NBA playoffs return to action in the Orlando bubble on Tuesday for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers took a 2-0 lead in this series Sunday night with their dramatic 105-103 victory over the Nuggets when Anthony Davis connected on a buzzer-beating 3-point shot to win that game.
All is not lost for Denver who has already rallied from 3-1 deficits twice in this postseason to defeat the Utah Jazz and then the Los Angeles Clippers to reach the conference finals. The core of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray has played in four playoff series over the last two seasons. They went into Game 4 of each time with a 2-1 deficit so they should be confident that they can do the same in the third game of this series. Bettors should also note that the Nuggets have covered the point spread in ten of their last eleven playoff games when trailing in the series.
After losing Game 1 by 12 points, the Nuggets demonstrated in Game 2 that they were not overmatched against the top seed in the Western Conference. Denver lost the free-throw battle by a 38 to 27 margin in Game 1 but they corrected this imbalance on Sunday by getting to the free-throw line 33 times giving them a 14 attempt edge at the charity stripe to the Lakers’ 19 free throw attempts. The Nuggets also forced 24 turnovers on Sunday while holding Los Angeles to only 45 points in the second half. Murray scored 15 of his 25 points in the second half to offer more scoring punch to complement Jokic who is averaging 25.5 PPG in this series on 17 of 34 shooting from the field and a 16 of 19 mark from the charity stripe.
The Lakers have won six games in a row in the playoffs after losing the opening game of their Western Conference semifinals series with Houston. Sunday night’s game was the first time during this hot streak that they did not pay off winning tickets by covering the point spread along with the winning the game as the favorite.
Denver received plenty of criticism for allowing Davis open to making that game-winning 3-point shot. However, while Davis is making 39% of his 3-pointers in the postseason, he was only a 33% shooter from 3-point land in the regular season.
The Lakers escaped with a victory on Sunday despite a significant decline in their shooting efficiency. Los Angeles shot 53.0% from the field in Game 1 of this series which included them making 44.6% of their 3-pointers. In Game 2, the Lakers made only 44.6% of their shots with a 36.1% clip from 3-point land. While their shooting marks on Sunday was going to be difficult to repeat, it will be interesting to observe if Los Angeles’ decline on Tuesday can be blamed on a bad shooting night or credited to improved defensive play from the Nuggets. BookMaker
lists Los Angeles as a 6.5-point favorite with the total set at 214.5. Tipoff is set for just after 9 PM ET on TNT.