NBA Picks: Lakers vs. Nuggets

Doug Upstone

Friday, March 7, 2014 3:17 PM GMT

Friday, Mar. 7, 2014 3:17 PM GMT

Right now, the only thing Los Angeles Lakers fans can smile about are the good old days. The Lakers mistakenly thought still had one more championship in them last season with Kobe Bryant and other big names and just maybe they could be a threat this year.

Instead, they are the West Coast version of the Knicks and no single player is going to turn them around. Denver ownership evidently thought missing the playoffs would be better than being a playoff failure and that is exactly what is going to happen to the Nuggets this season. While this might not be a spotlight game, we’ll make the case for one team for your NBA picks. 

Lakers Still Trying to Win, Diehards Conflicted

If you watch a few minutes of any Lakers game (and why would need to watch any more unless sports picks are involved), you can see by the general effort (except last night), they are still competing and are undermanned. Los Angeles was supposed to have Kobe and Steve Nash as their starting backcourt, not a combination of Jodie Meeks, Kent Bazemore and Kendall Marshall passing and shooting.

Off their humiliating loss to the Clippers last night, the former toast of the town in L.A. is 21-41, yet play with enough pride unlike Philadelphia (except last night) and are 8-7 ATS since Feb. 1, beating betting odds expectations.

Your average SoCal sports fan is calling for the Purple and Gold to tank, dreaming about Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker possibly be fitted for a Lakers uniform.

But true Lakers fans are conflicted. Sure, they have those same “throw in the towel” emotions, but they have more invested, a love of a team. They take pride in being a fan of this storied franchise which has 16 NBA championship banners and they want them to do their best.

In coach Mike D’Antoni’s style, scoring points is seldom an issue, even with a substandard cast. Where it all unravels is D’Antoni’s lack of attention on the defensive side and when you have average offensive players who lack the wherewithal to play defense because they are not really being asked to in no uncertain terms, this is why this Los Angeles team is 29th in points allowed at 107.4 per game. 

Denver Covering Spreads, Can it Continue?

The Nuggets had lost 10 of 11 and shown few signs of even being competitive with a 3-8 ATS record. Yet, as NBA basketball handicappers and astute followers of the game know, though it is a team game, one player can be a difference-maker and help a team.

Point guard Ty Lawson returned Wednesday night, as we have seen all season; he is their most valuable player and energizes the entire club. The former Tar Heel did not have a magical game in scoring 20 points on 5 for 12 shooting, but it was everything he accomplished which led Denver to winning 115-110 as five-point home underdogs.

Lawson’s overall line showed two 3-point baskets, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and he got to the free throw line a team-high nine times, converting eight.

In other words, the Lawson did everything a true point guard in the NBA should do as a leader and involved his teammates, to raise their level of play.

This marked the third straight contest Denver has covered. The Nuggets have always been at their best when they can control the glass with players like J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried, who are snaring errant shots and they can motor up and down the floor. With the Lakers a horrific -9 in rebounding margin, Denver will have chances to exploit a porous Los Angeles defense.

Betting Odds and Scheduling

Sportsbooks have set the NBA odds at Denver -9 with a total at a monstrous 227.  The Lakers come into this confrontation 4-10 and 7-6-1 ATS with no days off.  With lesser talent, Denver no longer has the home court edge like in the past and is a hard to fathom 4-12 ATS (9-7 SU) as a home favorite.

Talk about an impossible schedule! The Lakers next four contests are in order, Oklahoma City, at Oklahoma City, at San Antonio and the Spurs at home, Ouch!

After this battle, Denver embarks on a five-game road trip starting in New Orleans and will play everyone from the Southeast Division except Washington.

Head to Head Meetings

Denver has won and covered both meetings this season by strong margin, winning by 12 and 24 points. The Nuggets are a superior 5-0 SU and ATS since the day after Christmas in 2012 and the OVER has been the correct choice six consecutive times.

The Choice

I was all ready to take the Lakers but after last night’s non-effort, you have to wonder where they are mentally on short notice. I don’t want to overreact to one loss, but losing by 48 points sure seems like a warning sign, thus I will slightly favor Denver for our NBA pick in this match-up.

NBA Free Pick – Denver minus the points

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