The 2023-24 NBA season kicks off with a Western Conference Finals rematch from last season.
The defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets will have their ring ceremony before hosting the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James.
These two squads are both in the top five in the odds to win the NBA Finals this season, and there is plenty of motivation on each side after Denver swept the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals in the 2022-23 campaign.
Last season, Denver was dominant at home, but can it keep the good vibes going at Ball Arena?
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Lakers vs. Nuggets odds, spread and total
Lakers vs. Nuggets how to watch
- Date: Tuesday, Oct. 24
- Game Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
- Venue: Ball Arena
- How to Watch (TV): TNT
- Los Angeles Lakers Record: 0-0
- Denver Nuggets Record: 0-0
Lakers vs. Nuggets injury reports
Los Angeles Lakers injury report
- Jalen Hood-Schifino (out, knee)
- Jarred Vanderbilt (questionable, heel)
Denver Nuggets injury report
- Julian Strawther (day-to-day, ankle)
- Jay Huff (day-to-day, ribs)
- Vlatko Cancar (out indefinitely, knee)
Lakers vs. Nuggets key players to watch
Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James: When aren’t we watching the King? LeBron has held off Father Time, producing at a high level last season and leading the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals.
He’s focused on winning another title this season, and he may have the team around him to do so.
Austin Reaves: The darling of the NBA offseason, Reaves was terrific for the Lakers in the playoffs last season, averaging 16.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game in 16 games while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 44.3 percent from 3-point range. He’s expected to take on a bigger offensive load for the Lakers this season.
Nikola Jokic: The reigning NBA Finals MVP is the best player in basketball, and he’s going to be the main focus for the Lakers’ defense in this one. Jokic averaged 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds and 11.8 assists per game in the Western Conference Finals vs. the Lakers last season.
Christian Braun: A first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Braun had a sizable role for the Nuggets in their playoff run last season. Now, he should step into even more minutes with the departure of bench pieces Bruce Brown and Jeff Green in the offseason.
Lakers vs. Nuggets prediction and pick
The Lakers added a bunch of talent to their roster in free agency – Christian Wood, Gabe Vincent, Jaxson Hayes, Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish – so it will be interesting to see how head coach Darvin Ham configures his rotation.
Denver has a lot of continuity from last season’s team, and the team expects big things from young players like Braun and Peyton Watson to fill the shoes left by Brown and Green.
There are a few things to consider before wagering on this matchup, especially since there is the emotional factor of the ring ceremony for Denver.
Does the team get too caught up in last year’s title and come out flat?
The numbers for Denver at home last season suggest that won’t happen. The Nuggets were 27-20 against the spread as home favorites (playoffs included) winning those games by an average margin of 9.8 points.
They’re favored by 4.5 points in this game, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable number to ask them to cover. Denver had the Lakers’ number in the WCF, winning by six, five 11 and two in those four games.
While the series was close – and considered to be well played on both sides – Denver still would have covered this number in all but one game.
That, and the fact that the Lakers have not won a game on opening night since 2016 (!!) leads me to back Denver as a home favorite on Tuesday.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.