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LeBron, Lakers take on Cinderella-story Nuggets: NBACast

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 4 mins

LeBron, Lakers take on Cinderella-story Nuggets: NBACast

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LeBron James and the Lakers are the last of the pre-bubble favorites still standing inside Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Gone are the Milwaukee Bucks and cross-town Clippers, who were both at various times getting better odds than the Lakers to win this most-unique NBA championship.

To reach the finals, LeBron and the Lakers will have to get past Cinderella and do it just a few miles from her castle. In this Disney tale, the role of Cinderella is being portrayed by the Denver Nuggets. Denver is the only team in the history of planet Earth’s current time-space continuum to overcome consecutive 3-1 playoff deficits. Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals featuring the Lakers and Nuggets takes place Friday night.

Here is a betting preview. The Lakers are consensus 7-point favorites in the early line at Resorts. The Lakers are -278 at BetMGM on the money line, while the Nuggets are always worth a look, especially getting +250 at William Hill. The total is 213 at Points Bet. Bettors can get complete up-to-the-minute Lakers-Nuggets Game 1 Friday odds here.

NBA betting fans can also track the action, in-game analysis and break-out stats in real time on the Bookies.com-sponsored #NBACast, hosted by NBA experts Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux. The #NBACast offers unique trends, insights and — as always —Duncan and Leroux take your in-game questions during breaks in the action. Play begins at approximately 9 p.m. ET. The game will also air on TNT.

Fans can follow the Lakers-Nuggets Game 1 #NBACast on YouTube, via Twitch or on Twitter/Periscope at @NateDuncanNBA.

Can the Nuggets strike gold again?

LeBron, Lakers take on Cinderella-story Nuggets: NBACast 1
Nikola Jokic has been a force for the Nuggets during their improbable playoff run.

The No. 3 Nuggets were a legit presence in the West before the league’s pandemic shutdown. They caught the eye of multiple handicappers before play resumed, as well, despite getting +1400 to win the West and +3000 to win the NBA Finals. But the potential of an all-Los Angeles showdown in the Western Conference Finals — either at Staples Center or inside the Disney World Bubble — was all consuming for NBA experts and bettors right up until Nikola Jokic expedited the Clippers’ collapse with a triple-double in Game 7.

Jokic returned from the NBA hiatus leaner and meaner and that physical conditioning has delivered a motherlode of production for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray (27.1 points, 6.4 assists, 5.0 rebounds) and Jokic (25.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists) have proved to be too much for the Clippers and Jazz during this postseason.

The Lakers will not be caught off guard by the Nuggets and realize the threat posed by this opponent.

"It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice," James said of the Nuggets after they sunk the Clippers. "So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. That's how we're going into this series: understanding what they're capable of, where they stand."

Anthony Davis (27.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists) offers the most-intriguing matchup against Jokic. The 25-year-old Serb Jokic averaged 24.4 points and 13.4 boards against the Clippers. Both players will likely see those number mitigated given their evenly-matched skills. However, Jokic’s success from beyond the stripe – he hit 35.2% of his 3-point attempts against the Clippers – may deliver him an edge against Davis. Inside, the Lakers will rely on Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee.

Prop & Futures Bets For Nuggets, Lakers

In NBA futures markets, the Lakers are a substantial favorite to win this series and advance to the Finals. Los Angeles is -625 at DraftKings, while the Nuggets should attract some attention and action sitting +450 at William Hill. The consensus favorite for number of games in series is five (+200) at William Hill, while six games is +225, four games is +300 and seven games is +340. The Lakers remain the top choice to win the NBA Finals, moving to -230 at 888sport. The Miami Heat are +350, while the Boston Celtics and Nuggets are +1000 at the the same site.

RELATED: Check out our NBA expert picks for Friday’s action and bookmark the page for our free NBA picks every day of the playoffs.

About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.