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Western Conference Finals Game 3 is here, and Eytan Shander is giving us his picks for tonight's matchup

Once again, we found ourselves marveling at the play of Anthony Davis, right down to the final buzzer. Tonight, a pivotal game 3 in the West, as the Lakers can start the process of slamming the door shut. The Nuggets will need all of their remaining playoff magic tonight, otherwise they’ll be heading back to Denver later this week.

Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers Predictions

Nuggets +6 @ +100

We saw Denver cover that big line last time mainly with their two stars staying out of foul trouble. It took a buzzer-beater from Davis to elevate the Lakers to victory, so buy down the half point for the even-money return. Denver has a great shot of winning this basketball game. They’ve put unbelievable pressure on their first two opponents when down and went right down to the wire in game 2. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic were so smooth and highlighted the big man’s ability to pass the ball. The current line (+6.5) reflects the state of the series, not how close things were on Sunday. LeBron James may lead his team to victory but don’t expect it to be easy or any blowout type result. The two Lakers stars were everywhere last game, and it still wasn’t enough to cover the 7.5 points. So long as Denver’s stars get to play - and aren’t sitting with a bunch of fouls – the Nuggets will cover this game down to 6 points.

3rd Qtr Winner – Nuggets @ +126

Normally the smart thinking would be on Denver to jump out early, and probably hang on to win the first half. That would ensure the Lakers winning the 3rd – and most likely 4th – quarter as they closed out the game. Even if the Nuggets find a way to win, maybe it’s Davis’ turn to get a couple of early fouls, the Lakers should lose the third quarter. The most likely scenario here is James leads a super focused Lakers team into the first quarter, taking a comfortable lead into the half. That should open things up for the Nuggets to either close out that Lakers lead, or even take over after LA gets comfortable. This is all about taking advantage of timing, when Denver makes that run and wins a quarter. You can play the 2nd too, but I don’t trust it nearly as much as the start of the second half. Remember, Denver is pretty good with their backs to the wall.

Margin of Victory – Lakers 1-5 @ +400

We can create a little window here as the early play was betting Denver down to +6. If you still like the Lakers to win the game, throw a half-unit down on this one. Lakers by 4 or 5 points is still very realistic and both the Nuggets cover and Lakers payoff.

Race to 5 Points – Nuggets @ +100 

So much will be made of how the Nuggets are on death’s door. The Lakers will be talked up heading into the game like they’ve already won. Yes, you’ll hear mention of how Denver put on two improbable comebacks, but it’s not quite there yet in the series. Don’t expect that until it’s 3-0 or 3-1. For now, watch the Nuggets jump out to a couple of unanswered buckets to start the game. It’s just an immediate counter to the narrative and something both Jokic and Murray can realistically complete. Jokic with two or three early assists, and James missing a shot, that’s enough to be up 5-0 before you blink. Might as well cash in!


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