This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
Round 1 Recap
Los Angeles Lakers
Top Performers vs. Rockets
- LeBron James (56.6 Fantasy Points)
- Anthony Davis (48.9 FP)
- Rajon Rondo (31.2 FP)
Rondo's emergence in the Lakers' series against the Rockets is the main storyline, as we knew LeBron and AD would perform well. The veteran point guard has quickly established himself as the third-best player on the team after Kyle Kuzma was holding the spot down by default. Helping run the second unit, Rondo averaged 10.6 points on 8.2 shots, 7.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 26.6 minutes. Of course, Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Danny Green contributed too, but none of them averaged more than 18.8 FP and were ultimately fringe DFS options. You'll get lucky slotting them in your lineup during at least one of the games, but there's no way to know which day that will be.
Top Performers vs. Clippers
- Nikola Jokic (52.1 FP)
- Jamal Murray (39.2 FP)
- Gary Harris (22.0 FP)
- Michael Porter Jr. (21.9 FP)
- Paul Millsap (20.5 FP)
The Clippers' frontline was no match for Jokic, who torched Ivica Zubac – and especially Montrezl Harrell – and fueled the series upset. The All-NBA Second Team selection averaged 24.4 points on 18.6 shots, 13.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.4 blocks in 37.7 minutes. Murray's three-point shooting was also crucial, as he drilled 21 threes in the series at a 43.8 percent clip, en route to 22.6 points and 6.4 assists per game. Gary Harris also emerged as an important three-and-D option, hitting 13 triples and grabbing 13 steals in the seven-game series. The Nuggets' depth was a grab bag on a game-to-game basis, but Harris, Porter and Millsap each averaged at least 20 fantasy points.
Regular Season Meetings
Though the Lakers got the edge in the regular-season series 3-1, the numbers bear out something that resembles more of a 2-2 series, with the Lakers scoring only 0.4 more points per 100 possessions than the Nuggets. The Lakers were a little shorthanded, as James, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rondo appeared in just three of the games. Without James back on Dec. 22, the Nuggets prevailed 128-104, outsourcing the Lakers 73 to 51 in the second half. Davis finished with a game-high 32 points to go with 11 rebounds, while Jokic was held to a relatively modest 18 points on eight shots, to go with six rebounds and five assists. Malik Beasley – now a member of the Timberwolves – went for 16 points off the bench. In the three games James did play, he sliced through the Nuggets' defense, averaging 28.7 points and 11.7 assists.
For the Nuggets, Murray, Jokic, Millsap and Monte Morris appeared in all four games, while everyone else appeared in three or fewer. Jokic was excellent as a passer but struggled on the boards, averaging just 5.8 rebounds in the series. Jamal Murray also shot terribly from three, hitting just 15.8 percent of his 4.8 three-point attempts.
Given the similarity in size between the two teams, it's surprising that the Lakers had such a large rebounding advantage. The Nuggets managed to keep the possession game close by taking care of the basketball, however. Aside from that, the teams shot comparably from both the field and the charity stripe.
Betting Odds After Game 1
Even after completing a second consecutive 3-1 comeback, the Nuggets struggled to gain respect from oddsmakers. At the DraftKings Sportsbook, the Lakers opened as heavy favorites to win the series (-625), while the Nuggets sat at +450. After the Lakers secured a 126-114 victory in Game 1, the Lakers' line has been moved to -1420, while the Nuggets' has moved to +800.
In terms of the most likely outcome, the DraftKings Sportsbooks has a Lakers sweep as the shortest odds (+160). If you want the Nuggets to win in seven, you can get +1600 odds.
The Lakers were 7.0-point favorites for Game 1 and played the script, winning by 12. The line for Game 2 isn't much different, however, as Los Angeles is favored by 7.5. The Lakers led by as much as 27 points in Game 1, letting up some in the fourth quarter once the game was essentially decided. It appears oddsmakers might be chalking Denver's loss to a rest disadvantage, though most lines against two competitive teams in the playoffs aren't going to get to double-digits.