In the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers went on the road and won Game 1. Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets were not going to let that happen to start the Western Conference Finals.
Jokic posted 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists in a six-point Game 1 win for the Nuggets. Denver jumped out to a big lead in the first half and withstood a spirited comeback from the Lakers down the stretch to take a 1-0 series lead.
The Nuggets led by as many as 21 points during Game 1, but the Lakers twice cut that deficit to just three in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in an eventual 132-126 victory for Denver.
Will that second-half effort from the Lakers carry over to Game 2 on Thursday night? The Nuggets are favored by 5.5 points at BetMGM with the total listed at 226.5.
In Game 1, the Lakers got 40 points from Anthony Davis, a near triple-double (26 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists) from LeBron James and 23 points and eight assists from Austin Reaves, but they just could not overcome the Nuggets’ hot start.
Jokic set the tone early as he nearly had a triple-double by the time halftime rolled around. And while Jokic led the way, the Nuggets had five others with double-digit scoring efforts, including 31 from Jamal Murray and 21 from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
After the game, James said the Nuggets “punched us in the mouth” in the first half, forcing the Lakers to play “catch-up” for almost the entire night. It’s hard not to expect a more focused first-half effort from the Lakers in Game 2, particularly on the defensive end.
Following Game 1’s outcome, the Nuggets are now -250 to win the series and advance to the NBA Finals. The Lakers are listed at +200. Additionally, Denver is now the co-favorite to win the title. Both the Nuggets and Boston Celtics are listed at +150 even after Boston dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at home to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
Here's a first look at the rest of the sports betting slate for Thursday:
PGA Championship underway
The first round of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in New York got underway on Thursday morning.
Scottie Scheffler (+750) and Jon Rahm (+800) entered the tournament as the betting favorites ahead of the likes of Rory McIlroy (+1400), Xander Schauffele (+1600), Patrick Cantlay (+1800) and Brooks Koepka (+2000).
Light day in MLB
It’s a travel day in Major League Baseball and there are only six games on the schedule for Thursday, four of which will be played in the afternoon.
One of the more intriguing matchups of the day will take place in Queens as the New York Mets look to win their three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have the best record in baseball at 32-12 while the Mets are off to a disappointing 21-23 start. However, the Mets got a big win on Wednesday when Pete Alonso hit a walk-off 3-run home run to give his team a dramatic 8-7 victory in 10 innings.
On Thursday, the Mets will have Tylor Megill on the mound opposite Taj Bradley. The Rays are slight favorites on the road, listed at -120 at BetMGM. The Mets are +100.
What’s the best bet?
I’m going to take the Lakers +5.5. I think there will be a carry-over effect from Game 1 in multiple ways. The Lakers are upset with their lack of urgency in the first half, but the adjustments and comeback in the second half can propel them into a potential Game 2 victory.
I won’t go so far as to take the Lakers at +180 on the moneyline, but I’ll go ahead and play the +5.5.