The Denver Nuggets made historical past on Tuesday once they got here from 3-1 down within the sequence to get rid of the Los Angeles Clippers within the second spherical of the playoffs. The Nuggets had been the underdogs towards arguably one of the best aspect the Clippers have ever fielded in franchise historical past, however Denver discovered a option to upset the chances.
The Los Angeles Lakers are up subsequent for the Nuggets in a showdown within the Western Convention Finals. Denver has been nothing wanting superb within the postseason so far, however because it appears, they’ve lastly met their match within the Lakers. Listed below are 5 compelling explanation why Los Angeles is taken into account the heavy favourite to emerge from this sequence.
1. (Latest) Historical past
3-1. That is how the Lakers fared towards the Nuggets within the common season. L.A. gained three out of 4 bouts towards the Nuggets in the course of the season, with two of them coming in Denver. All video games had been comparatively shut — together with an time beyond regulation win by the Lakers again in February — apart from the Nuggets’ single blowout win. Denver dominated the Lakers in December, 128-104, nevertheless it’s essential to notice that LeBron James sat that recreation out.
One might simply argue that the regular-season report now not issues at this level, however there’s additionally no denying that current historical past is on the aspect of L.A. right here.
One of many many issues the Lakers have confirmed of their first two playoff matchups is that they’ve arguably one of the best protection within the league proper now. The Nuggets did a commendable job breaking down the protection of each the Utah Jazz within the first spherical and the Clippers within the second, however fairly frankly, neither of those groups are in the identical league because the Lakers’ protection.
Throughout their regular-season matchups, L.A. did a commendable job stopping each Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. The mix of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard stifled Jokic in the course of the common season, and they’ll look to do the identical within the Western Convention Finals, with loads of assist from Anthony Davis, after all. Davis has been ridiculous in these playoffs on each ends of the courtroom, and Jokic gained’t be capable to completely dominate him like he did Montrezl Harrell within the final spherical.
As for Murray, the Lakers have proven how adept they’re at containing elite guards so far, which got here within the type of Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, and even James Harden, to some extent. Murray isn’t but in the identical league because the three aforementioned stars, however he has been enjoying unbelievable basketball within the bubble and will probably be a handful. Nonetheless, the Lakers will probably be prepared.
A lot has been made about how the Nuggets have come again from 3-1 down towards each the Jazz and Clippers. Nonetheless, Denver did this towards two comparatively inexperienced groups, at the very least in comparison with the Lakers. Each the Jazz and Clippers have gamers on their crew which have had their fair proportion of playoff battles prior to now, however they merely pale compared to a really skilled Lakers aspect.
LeBron, Dwight Howard, Danny Inexperienced, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, JR Smith, and even Quinn Cook dinner have all been to the NBA Finals. That’s greater than half their squad. Quite the opposite, this specific Nuggets aspect is going through their first journey to the Western Convention Finals.
It’s clear which crew is extra skilled right here, and for the Nuggets, we simply don’t see them getting back from 3-1 down towards this Lakers crew.
The Nuggets had been imagined to be fatigued towards the Clippers following an epic comeback towards the Jazz within the first spherical, however that simply didn’t occur. As a matter of truth, it was LA that seemed gassed in Sport 7 on Tuesday. Denver is a younger crew, and it can’t be denied that their youthful exuberance has performed an enormous function of their epic comebacks.
However, you need to ask: how a lot gasoline have they got left within the tank at this level? Simply think about how a lot vitality this Nuggets crew needed to expend to return again 3-1 down within the sequence — twice.
As compared, the Lakers made fast work of their opponents within the first two rounds, going 8-2 within the playoffs so far. They’re additionally coming off 5 full days of relaxation from their final recreation, versus Denver, who solely get two days off. The Nuggets have performed 14 video games within the postseason so far, whereas L.A. has taken the courtroom simply 10 occasions.
Youth could also be within the favor of Denver, however it might be silly to fully disregard the fatigue issue.
5. LeBron James
Lastly, and maybe finally the largest motive why the Lakers ought to be capable to defeat the Nuggets: LeBron James. We’ve all heard concerning the 12 months-17 narrative time and again, and it now appears repetitive at this level. That doesn’t make it any much less true, although.
LeBron had an amazing, MVP-worthy common season, however he has stepped it up a notch within the playoffs. In 10 postseason video games, James is averaging 26.6 factors on 55.Three p.c capturing, 10.Three rebounds, 8.Eight assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.1 blocks whereas additionally connecting on 2.Three triples per recreation at a 37.1 p.c clip. Superb.
LeBron has carried out all of it within the NBA, and one might argue that there’s nothing left for him to play for at this level. Make no mistake about it, although: that is the very last thing on James’ thoughts. His aggressive spirit stays as excessive because it was in 12 months 1, and there’s no lack of motivation for him — particularly after his disappointing debut season with the Purple & Gold final season.
James is on a mission, and sadly for the Nuggets, they’re standing in his manner.