Could Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic lead the Nuggets to the title? Photo by @NBA (Twitter)
- The Denver Nuggets are the first team to overturn 3-1 deficits in back-to-back playoff series
- Denver was +30000 to win the title on September 10th – they are now +900
- Do the Nuggets have a legitimate shot to reach the NBA Finals? See our betting analysis below
What an extraordinary Game 7 performance. What an extraordinary team. The Denver Nuggets made history on Tuesday, becoming the first ever NBA team to win two series from a 3-1 deficit in the same postseason.
Their first Conference Finals berth in 11 years was the reward for finishing off the heavily favored Clippers – now the Nuggets are underdogs once again as they face the Los Angeles Lakers.
Down 3-1 to the Clippers on September 10th, the Nuggets were out at +30000 to win the title. Their price has, unsurprisingly, shortened in the last week. They are still outsiders at +900, however, with the Lakers the heavy favorites to win it all at -200.
The latest NBA Championship odds, courtesy of DraftKings, are in the table below.
2020 NBA Championship Odds
|Team||Odds at DraftKings|
|Los Angeles Lakers||-200|
Odds taken September 16th
Lakers Challenge Awaits
Anthony Davis and LeBron James await the Nuggets in the Conference Finals. Denver has a couple of days to rest and recover before the series tips off – the Lakers have been watching the second round series, resting up since knocking Houston out on Saturday 12th.
The Lakers won three of their four regular season games against Denver, often keeping Jokic relatively quiet, however.
Regular season Jokic and playoff Jokic are different beasts. What we saw from Jokic in the last three games was just phenomenal. He was the hub of the offense, his passing was perfect, and he was hitting all sorts of outrageous shots. The Lakers have one of the best matchups for him in Davis, though, and where the Clippers offense did not search him out on the defensive end enough, the Lakers will go at him in the pick-and-roll. James is going to drive at the Nuggets’ center over and over.
“Shaq, Stephen A., Zach Lowe, ya’ll better start giving this team some damn respect.” — Jamal Murray
— Kendra Andrews (@kendra__andrews) September 16, 2020
Having a guy who can guard Jokic without help is important. The former second-round pick killed the Clippers when they doubled in Game 7 – the Lakers shouldn’t need to double often. Murray’s much-improved playmaking will be important to create open three-point shots for Jerami Grant, Paul Millsap and Gary Harris.
It’s understandable that the odds so heavily favor the Lakers. The additional time off, and how they dismantled the Rockets, are clearly huge factors, but the Nuggets are playing with otherworldly confidence right now. They believe they can win it all – it’s tempting to back them at +900.
2020 NBA Eastern and Western Conference Odds Tracker
Jokic and Murray Keep Going
The Clippers had Jamal Murray under control early in the series. LA’s perimeter defense was preventing the heroics we saw in the first round, but Murray grew into the series, building up to an astonishing 40-point Game 7 performance. Nikola Jokic was in and out of the Jazz series – the Clippers had no answer for him.
Murray & Jokic embrace postgame in #PhantomCam! #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/sRc7u1nar8
— NBA (@NBA) September 16, 2020
Fatigue is clearly a concern. They have played 14 playoff games already, four more than the Lakers, and Murray averaged over 40 minutes per game in the second round. Their workload will have to be substantial in the Conference Finals – the offense can look limited in Jokic’s absence, and they lack dribble penetration when Murray sits.
Where the attention has been on the star duos in Los Angeles and Houston, it has been Denver’s pairing who have had the most miraculous performances. They have been inconsistent, forcing themselves into difficult situations, but they have come through them, and crucially found their best games when their backs are up against the wall.
Nikola Jokic has 2 career Game 7 triple-doubles.
No other player has more in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/tAwdEgvwMW
— StatMuse (@statmuse) September 16, 2020
To go all the way, Denver needs Harris, Grant, Millsap, Monte Morris, Torrey Craig and Michael Porter Jr. to knock down shots. Millsap came up big in Game 5, Harris shot 42% from three for the series and got some easy points off well-timed cuts. Porter hit a couple of huge threes late in games. Morris is as reliable as they come, and Grant played his part in building the Game 7 lead.
It would be foolish to write off the Nuggets. Of course they’re massive underdogs in the Conference Finals and likely would be against Boston or Miami. That’s a situation they are not only familiar with, but one they thrive under. They play with freedom when the expectations drop – no one expects them to get past the Lakers, and that’s exactly how they like it.
Sam Cox is a freelance writer and sports junkie, who has spent the past several years immersed in the online gaming industry. He has worked with 888sport, Oddschecker, and Colossus Bets to name a few. Based in the UK, Sam also runs Franchise Sports with his brother.