Preview and Free Pick for Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals
Do the Los Angeles Lakers have anything left in them? If they do, this would be the time to show it. LeBron James is going to need a comeback like he's never had before. His team has blown the first three games to the Denver Nuggets, and if they can't confront what's been beating them on Monday night, they are going to be watching the NBA Finals from somewhere else.
Game 4 begins at 8:30 PM ET at the Crypto.com Arena, and remember that with Odds Boosters, Prop Builder and live betting, there are a lot of ways for BetOnline customers to win.
Denver won the first two games of the Western Conference finals, and maybe that wasn't a big surprise. But they won Game 3 in Los Angeles with more authority. The 119-108 final may have taken some of the heart of the Lakers, and we'll no doubt find out more about that on Monday.
There are several things that should be of great concern to the Lakers. One is that they can't stop Jamal Murray without leaving themselves wide open to other scoring options in the Denver lineup. Murray, who has tallied 37 points in each of the last two games, is hitting 45% from three-point range. And even though L.A. has a standout defensive center in Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic has been doing pretty much what he wants. Jokic, who won two consecutive MVP awards and finished as the runner-up to Joel Embiid this year, is averaging a triple double in the first three games - 27 points, 14.7 rebounds and 11.3 assists.
What's disturbing is that Denver is playing more team-oriented ball, and when you have an offense that runs through the center, he's going to line up an awful lot in the high post and that brings Davis, a great shot-blocker, out "in space," as they say. Meanwhile, any team with LeBron James in a starring role is going to have to endure some one-on-one play. James is averaging 10.3 in these first three games (34 total), but has been throwing bricks from long range, hitting just three of 19 triples.
In the NBA playoff betting odds that have been posted on this game by the good folks at BetOnline, the Lakers are favored to keep themselves alive:
Los Angeles Lakers -3
Denver Nuggets +3
Over 224.5 Points -110
Under 224.5 Points -110
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Together, Murray and Jokic are scoring 62 points a game. But there is also a certain degree of balance; there are five players averaging 14 points or better. Bruce Brown has been a supersub for them, hitting 17 of 33 shots and postng the team's highest individual offensive rating (140). As a team, the Nuggets have shot just a shade under 50% from the field.
Denver has also hit 41.4% of three-point attempts, and that has given them the edge over the Lakers and their 33.7%. But when you think about it, the Lakers aren't a team that has been proficient from beyond the arc, with just 34.6% for the season.
Austin Reeves has been a revelation for the Lakers. He's averaged 22.7 points and has hit 13 of 23 from long distance. He's a bit of a liability on defense, but he is contributing more than D'Angelo Russell, who has been a virtual no-show with a lousy 2-of-14 from downtown.
If Russell can add a little something, and LeBron could either shoot better from the arc or shoot less, the Lakers might live to fight another day. We don't know if they are going to be able to pick up the pace, which has favored Denver, but we look at this from a rather non-technical angle. We figure the NBA and the networks would like nothing less than for Los Angeles and LeBron to be eliminated in four games. Will that factor in the way the officials act? Well, we've seen and heard a lot about this kind of thing.
The Lakers led the NBA in free throw attempts, and they have shot 84% from the line in this series, which is outstanding. We applaud the job Michael Malone has done, but we also wonder whether the Nuggets are experienced enough as a playoff group that they won't at least subconsciously take the foot off the pedal here.
So we're going to go ahead and lay the points with the home team.
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