- The Denver Nuggets have fallen 3-1 behind for the third successive series following Thursday’s Game 4 loss to the Lakers
- Denver is now +1600 to win the series and advance to the NBA Finals
- Can the Nuggets pull off another improbable comeback?
The Denver Nuggets made history when they became the first team to overturn consecutive 3-1 series deficits. The Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers were unable to hold off these never-say-die Nuggets, but Denver must make history again if it’s to make the NBA Finals.
A Game 4 win has put the Lakers in a commanding position in the Western Conference Finals, and they are just one win away from the NBA Finals.
The table below has the latest Western Conference odds with the Nuggets out at +1600 to make the Finals.
Lakers vs Nuggets Western Conference Finals Series Odds
|Los Angeles Lakers||-10000|
Odds taken from DraftKings on September 25.
Beaten on the Boards
Dwight Howard troubled Nikola Jokic early in the series. His ill-discipline became problematic in Games 2 and 3. Howard was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4 and, for the most part, was calmer than in games past.
He dominated the Nuggets on the boards, notching eight second chance points in the first quarter alone. The eight-time All-Star finished with 11 rebounds in just 22 minutes, six of which came from the offensive glass.
The Lakers’ rebounding supremacy wasn’t limited to Howard, however. Denver had eight fewer total rebounds and six fewer offensive boards. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo grabbed clutch rebounds in the fourth, and LeBron James finished with nine.
Dwight Howard’s transformation continues to blow my mind. The man went from a superstar to a past-his-prime player with a post-up addiction to THIS hyper-active big with the Lakers. He proved a lot of people around the league wrong. Amazing to see him contribute with this role
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) September 25, 2020
Michael Malone countered the Lakers’ size by running Mason Plumlee and Nikola Jokic together for a short period. Plumlee’s size was useful, and he helped Denver box out, but he finished with just one board.
It was Michael Porter Jr. who led the team in rebounding with eight in 20 minutes – Porter was sloppy at times, and his defense fluctuates between okay and terrible, but he’s still an important player for these Nuggets.
Rondo Keeps Going
Playoff Rondo just keeps performing. The veteran point guard delivered big time again for the Lakers on Thursday and continues to climb the all-time playoff assist list (as the broadcast like to remind us frequently).
Rondo’s seven dimes were a mix of pick-and-roll lobs, hook-around passes into the paint and well-timed deliveries to cutters.
The fake pass and finish from Rondo. Just like the old times. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/2jv7zjlUz9
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) September 25, 2020
His effectiveness as a ball handler allows James to work off-ball. It makes him a different threat offensively and allows him to preserve energy for late-game defense, which we saw against Jamal Murray down the stretch.
Denver should attack Howard in pick-and-rolls and force him to deal with Jokic in the post. He was less impactful defensively in Game 4 as he tried to avoid foul trouble. Going at him will result in fouls or easy buckets.
Playoff Rondo is an extremely real thing and I don't give a damn if he's averaging 4ppg on 17% shooting during the reg season keep that man on the roster
— Aye throw that Boyz II Men on (@DragonflyJonez) September 25, 2020
Lessening Rondo’s influence on the game is trickier. His hustle on both ends makes him a nuisance. His driving game is still effective enough to make the defense scramble. Rondo is always going to make good passes, but Denver need to stop his off-the-dribble game.
Malone could look to put Gary Harris on him for a short period and force Rondo to play-make standing still. The Lakers are short on ball-handlers – if the Nuggets can stay in front of Rondo, they are asking Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green and Caldwell-Pope to do more than spot-up and shoot.
Grant’s Continued Influence
Just as in Game 3, Jerami Grant’s performance was one of the main positives for Denver from Game 4. His 17 points were his second-best scoring performance since Game 6 of the first round. Grant was almost a non-factor offensively against the Clippers, and struggled early in the Conference Finals, but he is clearly playing with more confidence on the offensive end.
Carrying on from Game 3, Grant provided a variety of offensive output. It wasn’t a simple hot shooting night from three, he was attacking off the dribble, cutting hard, dunking and drained two of his six three-point attempts. Both the Nuggets and Lakers have been searching for scoring to supplement their two stars – Grant has been that guy for Denver in the last two games. A player who can guard Anthony Davis and LeBron, and be a third scoring option, is immensely valuable.
You know who Denver could use right now? Will Barton. We forget that there is a 16 point scorer sitting at home right now.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) September 25, 2020
With Grant performing like this, Denver has a chance of turning this around. It lessens the burden on Murray and Jokic.
Lakers Too Good
Denver could so easily be ahead in this series. They were flattened in the series opener, but they have been very competitive since then. Game 4 could have gone their way if they hit just a couple of their open threes and rebounded better.
Denver Nuggets got Los Angeles Lakers right where they want them. #3-1
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) September 25, 2020
A fightback is not impossible, and even at this stage, it would be reckless to completely write off Denver. Overturning 3-1 against this Lakers team is a much sterner task than the dysfunctional Clippers or Utah.
The Nuggets’ +205 moneyline for Game 5 is a decent bet. Coming back in the series is too great an ask, however, against a Lakers team with plenty of playoff experience and two of the top 10 players in the NBA. It could be worth backing the Lakers to win it in six.
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