The Nuggets will look to continue their undefeated streak at home this postseason in tonight’s game two. Denver has the chance to build a nice 2-0 lead in the series before heading back to LA, and we’ll preview the game before going over our play for the first half.
During the conference semi-finals, the Lakers had one of the lowest rebounding percentages at 47.6%, the worst out of any team to advance to the conference finals. Those struggles on the glass were prevalent in game one, as they were outrebounded 47 to 30 and allowed Nikola Jokic to pull down 21, including six on the offensive end.
Jokic’s six offensive rebounds were part of the 15 offensive rebounds the Nuggets pulled down in the game, which led to 18 second-chance points. The only reason LA kept the game close in the second half was that they stopped getting exposed by putbacks and allowed just two second-chance points in the second half.
LA failed to slow down Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, but they also faced a team with real scoring depth for the first time since the playoffs started. The Nuggets' bench is the first bench unit that the Lakers have played that does not have a negative NET rating, and Denver’s bench also has the best defensive efficiency rating LA has seen.
Bruce Brown scoring 16 points off the bench, gave the Nuggets six players that finished in double figures and was a prime example of the benefits players get from playing with a skilled passing big man like Jokic. The attention that Jokic requires opens up the court more for his teammates, who all play their roles exceptionally well and helped Denver shoot 47% from three in game one.
Unlike the Lakers not facing a similar play style to Denver this postseason, the Nuggets just finished playing a series against a two-point shooting/mid-range heavy offense. Not only did the Lakers attempt 71.4% of their field goal attempts from two, but they also got 17.5% of their points on mid-ranges, which Denver just had to adjust to with the Suns’ offense.
The Nuggets' first-half spread can currently be found at (-2.5), and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. After game one, the Lakers 1H NET rating on the road went from (-15.8) to (-18.5), and their struggles in multiple facets of the game continued to be an issue. LA has consistently stumbled out of the gate with rebounding, and even though they adjusted in the second half, I still think the Nuggets can continue their dominance on the boards in the first half.
I expected LA to try to push out into transition in game one, but Denver got 23.6% of their point on the fastbreak in game one, and with the Lakers' transition defense on the road, I think they can continue to steal points in transition. The Lakers are allowing an average of 10.9 points per game in the first half on the road, and I’m not convinced they have an adjustment yet for this area.
The other area I’m not convinced LA has an adjustment for is the Nuggets' scoring depth. Denver’s offensive efficiency in the first half was (141.2), and they shot 58.3% on catch-and-shoot opportunities for the game, so if they can continue to capitalize on Jokic’s kick outs, I like them to go into halftime with a lead again.
Denver Nuggets 1H (-2.5)