Game 4 of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Nuggets is expected to be a make-or-break game for Los Angeles as they risk being swept by the imposing Denver Nuggets, who are booked as +3 underdogs hours before the potential series-clincher on Monday.
Jamal Murray, who has been scoring at will in the first three games, must be neutralized for the Lakers to have any hope of evening up the series. Rather than letting Murray continue his scoring streak, the Lakers will concentrate on developing him as a facilitator.
Many were taken aback by the Nuggets' strong performance against the star-studded Lakers. Up 3-0 in the best-of-seven West Finals series, Denver is sporting a net rating of +7.0, which only demonstrates their dominance over Los Angeles in the past three games.
Crunching up the numbers, the scoring projections for Murray are a bit inflated, with his total points set at 26.5. However, the Lakers are sure to place more emphasis on containing Murray for Game 4, thus getting more than 25 points for the fourth straight game is going to be a lot tougher task this time around. Another prop total that seems too high is LeBron James' assist mark, which is set at 8.5, since I expect James to concentrate on finding scoring opportunities for himself rather than settling as a facilitator.
The betting markets rapidly changed the Game 4 spread from favoring the Lakers by 4 points to as low as -3 for Los Angeles. It only emphasizes that sportsbooks are losing trust in the Lakers' ability to bounce back from a sluggish starts and come back from deficits, especially in the first and fourth quarters. The Lakers' defense has been their strong point, particularly at home, but their offensive output has been lackluster.
Game 4's final score was originally 225 points, however, it was reduced to 224. Since the high-scoring Game 1, the scoring has lessened, with defense playing a bigger role. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves are the main scorers for the Lakers, and their shooting hasn't been great the last two games.
In the end, the Lakers will have a tough time preventing a series sweep while the Nuggets want to keep up their impressive play. The Lakers' defense will be essential, but their supporting cast needs to contribute more offensively. Expect Los Angeles to exert all effort in its attempt to change the course of the series by taking advantage of their home court advantage. Lakers will take Game 4.
Prediction: Denver Nuggets 107, Lakers 115, Under 224 Points
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