Lakers-Nuggets Game 3 in NBA playoffs, plus a Preakness selection: Best Bets for May 20

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Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) drives as Denver Nuggets forward Bruce Brown (11) defends during the first half of Game 2 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals series, Thursday, May 18, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.

Here are our best bets for Saturday, May 20:

TOP PLAY

The play: NBA Western Conference Finals Game 3, Lakers -5½ over Nuggets

The odds: -114

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 8:30 p.m. (ABC)

Our take: Just as we did Friday night, we’ll play the narrative game that works so well in the NBA playoffs. The Nuggets survived their home games and take a 2-0 series lead to Los Angeles, where the Lakers will be easily the more desperate team.

More desperate = more aggressive, and the Lakers tend to draw a lot of fouls with their style of play anyway (insert your own flopping joke here, but it’s also just the way they force the ball in the paint instead of settling for jump shots). Combine that with perhaps a friendly whistle and L.A. should have a big edge in halving Denver’s series lead. On the other side, the Nuggets will have trouble making as many shots as they did at home just by the law of averages.

There’s a reason that L.A. was a 5-to-6-point underdog on the road and is suddenly a 5½-point favorite at home. This one is easy to see coming.

PREAKNESS PICK

The play: Preakness Stakes, National Treasure to place (first or second)

The odds: Odds will vary until post time

The book: FanDuel Racebook

Time/TV: Post time 7:01 p.m. (NBC)

Our take: Kentucky Derby winner Mage is the heavy favorite, moving better than even money after second choice First Mission was scratched Friday morning. But how many times have you seen a longer shot win the Derby (Mage was 15/1) and then go into the Preakness with some hype, only to fall back in the pack?

In gallops, National Treasure, rested after not running the Derby and from Bob Baffert’s stable. Say what you will about Baffert (many have), but he tends to have contenders. National Treasure pays 4/1 to win as of Saturday morning, and we’re not against that route, but we’ll play it safe and choose him to win or place at slightly lower odds.

HOW WE’VE FARED

Friday’s best bets

NBA playoffs: Celtics -8½ over Heat (LOST)

NBA playoffs: Jimmy Butler UNDER 28½ points (WON)

MLB: Braves money line over Mariners (WON)

Friday’s record: 2-1

Total for the week: 7-2, 1 pending

Total for May: 22-15, 1 pending

Total for 2023: 110-120, 1 pending

NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)

Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).

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