The road to the NBA Finals resumes Tuesday night when the No. 7 seeded Los Angeles Lakers visit the top-seeded Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers ousted the Golden State Warriors in the semifinals, while the Nuggets knocked off the Phoenix Suns.
Denver has won three division titles over the past five seasons and reached the conference finals in 2019-20 before losing to the Lakers in five games. The Nuggets are seeking the first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history.
Los Angeles has captured 17 NBA titles and is looking to win their second Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy in four years. The Lakers have claimed 33 division titles and reigned supreme over the Western Conference a whopping 19 times.
The Eastern Conference Finals will begin Wednesday night with the No. 2 seeded Boston Celtics hosting the No. 8 seeded Miami Heat. The Celtics disposed of the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, and the Heat topped the New York Knicks.
Boston is tied with the Lakers with 17 NBA championships and is seeking their first league crown since 2008. The Celtics have won 33 division titles while capturing 10 Eastern Conference championships.
Miami has notched three NBA titles and is eyeing its first league crown since 2013. The Heat has bagged 16 division titles and has captured six Eastern Conference championships.
The Nuggets (-150) are favorites to win the Western Conference title over the Lakers (+125) and posted a 34-7 record at home during the regular season. The two teams split four games this year, but Denver is 3-1 against Los Angeles at Ball Arena since the start of the 2021-2022 season.
Denver tallied a conference-best 53 wins and is paced by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who led the team with 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game. Point guard Jamal Murray is the second-leading scorer with 20 points per outing, while Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon added 17.4 and 16.3 points, respectively.
The Nuggets ranked first with a 50.4 field goal percentage and second with 28.9 assists per game. However, head coach Michael Malone's squad ranked 15th in the league in defensive rating and has claimed just two wins in five road playoff matchups.
Lebron James posted a team-best 28.9 points per game and led the Lakers with 6.8 assists, and Anthony Davis poured in 25.9 points and 12.5 rebounds. D'Angelo Russell added 17.8 points, while Austin Reaves (13.0), Dennis Schroder (12.6), and Lonnie Walker (11.7) combined for 37.3 points per contest.
The Lakers ranked fifth with 117 points per game and pulled down the sixth-most rebounds per contest with 45.7. But head coach Darvin Ham's troops struggled mightily at the free throw line (77.5) and shot just 34.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Prediction: Nuggets win the series, four games to two
The most popular bet types for wagering on the Nuggets vs. Lakers are:
The moneyline - a bet on who will win. Say you favor Los Angeles, a $100 wager at odds of +180 returns a profit of $180.
Over/under - this is a wager on whether the total points will be fewer or greater than a number set by the sportsbook. Over 222.5 points look like a good bet, with odds offered at -110, and a stake of $100 would net a total payout of $190.91.
Point Spread - a bet on the margin of victory. If you like the Nuggets at -5.5, a $100 wager at odds of -110 returns a profit of $90.91.
The Celtics (-500) are the heavy favorites to capture the Eastern Conference crown over the surprising Heat (+375) and defeated Miami in seven games a year ago to advance to the NBA Finals. The two teams split four regular season games, but both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown averaged 30 points per game against the Heat.
Tatum averaged 30.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists, while Brown tallied 26.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per outing. Malcolm Brogdon (14.9), Derrick White (12.4), Marcus Smart (11.5), and Al Horford (9.8) also played key offensive roles.
Boston finished third in the league with 118 points per game and ranked seventh with 45.3 rebounds. The Celtics are an elite shooting squad that was fourth with an 81.2 free throw percentage and shot 37.7 percent (6th) from behind the three-point line.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 22.9 points and 5.3 assists during the regular season but has averaged 31.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in the playoffs. Bam Adebayo tallied 20.4, Tyler Herro posted 20.1 points, and Max Strus and Kyle Lowry added 11.5 and 11.2 points, respectively. Herro broke the middle and ring fingers on his right hand in the first round and is recovering from surgery.
Miami ranked 30th with 109 points per game and ranked near the bottom of the league in rebounds (27th), field goal percentage (26th), 3-point percentage (27th), assists (25th), and blocked shots (30th). However, head coach Erik Spoelstra's squad finished second in free throw percentage and fifth with eight steals per outing.
Prediction: Celtics win the series, four games to one
The most popular bet types for wagering on the Heat vs. Celtics are:
The moneyline - a bet on who will win. Say you prefer Miami, a $100 wager at odds of +280 returns a profit of $280.
Over/under - this is a wager on whether the total points will be fewer or greater than a number set by the sportsbook. Boston under 210.5 points looks like a good bet with odds at roughly -110, and a stake of $100 would net a profit of $90.91.
Point Spread - a bet on the margin of victory. If you like the Heat at +8.5, a $100 wager at odds of -115 returns a total payout of $186.96.