The marquee game in the NBA on Monday is Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers – if the Western Conference playoffs started today, the Nuggets would be the third seed and host the sixth-seeded Lakers. However, L.A. also could fall to seventh with a loss Monday and might not have LeBron James or starting point guard Dennis Schroder. Denver opened as a 2.5-point favorite at William Hill Sportsbook but that's already up to -4 with James in question. Update: James is out at least Monday and Schroder will miss 10-14 days. Spread continues to rise.
James (25.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.8 apg) returned from a right high ankle sprain that cost him nearly six weeks on Friday, yet the Lakers were upset at home by Sacramento. On Sunday night, LeBron played just 28 minutes because he was battling that sore right ankle and the Lakers were shocked by the Toronto Raptors. LeBron is definitely in question to play Monday now.
"I definitely want to get healthy. Not only for myself, but for our team," James said, confirming he would make the decision based on how he feels today. "I need to make sure my ankle is where it was before the injury. I've got to be smart with it."
Schroder (15.5 ppg, 5.8 apg) sat Sunday in the health and safety protocols so he's obviously in question too. He missed four games earlier this year in the protocols as well but says he never tested positive for COVID. Alex Caruso started for him in the 121-114 loss to the Raptors.
At one point, the Lakers had the NBA's best record at 21-6. Now, they are 36-28 and would fall out of the West's top six with a loss tonight and if Portland (also 36-28) wins in Atlanta. Teams 7-10 in each conference are in the play-in tournament. LeBron isn't a fan of that.
"Whoever came up with that s--- needs to be fired," he said to reporters after Sunday's loss. Despite the team's recent struggles, it remains a +170 favorite at William Hill to win the West.
The Nuggets of course lost second-leading scorer Jamal Murray for the season on April 12 and also are without the injured Will Barton and Monte Morris but have won five straight and nine of 10. Nikola Jokic remains the MVP betting heavy favorite at -900. Denver still has an outside shot of earning the top seed in the West.
The Lakers and Nuggets have split two meetings this season, each winning at home. Jokic is averaging 18.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and 8.0 assists vs. L.A. this year.
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