Free NBA Playoff Picks: Lakers at Nuggets Game 6 Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 5/9/2012
The Los Angeles Lakers are really going to regret not winning Game 5 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series on Tuesday night at home against the Denver Nuggets. If L.A. had won, the series would have been over and those weary legs of veterans like Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol would have gotten a break until Saturday or Sunday before facing the Oklahoma City Thunder -- probably Sunday as Lakers-Thunder will be the biggest ratings draw of Round 2.
But now? If L.A. finishes the Nuggets off in Game 6 back in Denver on Thursday night, the Lakers get only two days off and maybe just one before facing the well-rested and much younger Thunder. Los Angeles had closed out a playoff series on the first try in 11 of its previous 12 opportunities, and the Lakers won 12 of their last 13 closeout games under departed Coach Phil Jackson.
Yet the irony is that, in a way, losing Game 5 might have helped the Lakers in one regard: Now they know that if they advance, they will have Metta World Peace against the Thunder in the West semis. Of course, Peace was suspended seven games (one of those being the regular-season finale) for a vicious elbow to the head of OKC’s James Harden. Peace will miss Game 6 but could return for Game 7 against Denver, which would be Saturday back in L.A.. And it surely doesn’t seem fair that Peace will be eligible for a full Thunder series if the Lakers advance as expected, but that’s how things will work out.
Lakers at Nuggets Betting Story Lines
It’s now looking like the best trade at the deadline this season was Denver sending vastly overpaid Nene to Washington to the pogo-stick that is JaVale McGee. If you watched Denver’s Game 5, 102-99, victory, McGee was absolutely everywhere, dunking on alley-oops, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. McGee finished with 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting and 14 rebounds in just 33 minutes – altering several shots he didn’t actually block -- and was way better than the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum.
It’s clear Denver goes how McGee goes against the big Laker front line, and he can be a disinterested knucklehead at times. In the Nuggets’ three losses in this series, he’s averaging 5.0 points (on 23.5 percent shooting) and 6.3 rebounds. In the two wins, those numbers are 18.5 points (70.8 percent shooting) and 14.5 boards.
The Denver bench was tremendous on Tuesday as Andre Miller had 24 points and eight assists off the bench and really hit all the key shots in the fourth quarter. It was the first time in the Nuggets' NBA playoff history (154 games) two Denver reserves contributed 20-or-more points in a game. By comparison, Matt Barnes led the Lakers’ total bench output of 19 points with 11 and needed 15 shots to get there. Overall, the three Lakers reserves who played shot 8-for-24.
Bynum had said before Game 5 that close-out games were “kinda easy” and he didn’t back that up. Bynum wasn’t bad with 16 points and 11 boards, but he was often nowhere to be found on defense as the Nuggets were driving to the basket, and his effort looked very questionable. Mostly it was the Kobe Bryant show on Tuesday as he finished with 43 points and was raining three-pointers late in the fourth quarter as L.A. nearly rallied. By the way, that’s the second-most points Kobe has had in a playoff loss in his career; he had 50 points in an overtime loss to the Suns in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.
Denver might actually have broken an NBA rule at the end of Game 5. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Nuggets used a laptop computer in their huddle during a 20-second timeout with 19.9 seconds left to play. The computer apparently belonged to an assistant coach sitting behind the bench with it. NBA rules forbid the use of such devices in the huddle, which can carry a fine of up to $250,000. The Nuggets say they did nothing wrong. According to Coach George Karl, a memo from the NBA stated teams can use laptops and can have them on the bench, just as long as the material on it isn't taken from the game in-progress.
Lakers at Nuggets Betting Odds and Key Trends
Denver opened as a 1.5-point favorite with the total at 198 on NBA odds. The Lakers were 12-21 ATS on the road this season (1-1 this series) and 19-13-1 on the ‘over/under’ (both games in this series in Denver went under). The Nugs were 14-19 ATS at home this season and 13-20 on the O/U.
The Lakers are 4-0 ATS in their past four games after a loss. L.A. is 1-5 ATS in its past six games as an underdog. Denver is 4-1 ATS in its past five as a favorite. The under is 4-1 in Lakers’ past five games after a loss. The under is a whopping 13-3 in the past 16 meetings between these teams in Denver.
Free NBA Playoff Picks: Lakers at Nuggets Betting Predictions
Don’t rule out the Lakers playing in the Denver altitude having an effect. Bynum cited it as one of the reasons for his no-show of a first half in Game 3, the Nuggets' first victory of this series. L.A. seemed to adjust in Game 4, but it won’t have that luxury this time. The Nuggets want to run them off the court as it is and the Lakers could be a bit gassed and have heavy legs. Denver is younger and has a much better bench.
That’s all well and good, but you know Kobe doesn’t want a Game 7 in this series and likely will have a huge game. And I think Bynum definitely puts forth a bigger effort. If I could trust McGee at all, I probably would lean to the home Nuggets, but I just can’t do that. Take L.A. and the under.
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