NBA: Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals
After a second consecutive 3-1 series deficit erased by the amazing play of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, the Denver Nuggets will face their toughest test in LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. The basketball world was looking forward to the battle of L.A. in the bubble between the Lakers and Clippers, but nobody let the Nuggets know they were supposed to step aside. Game one will be a pivotal game for both teams, given that the winner of game one wins the series roughly 64% of the time. But that may not matter to the Nuggets. On the contrary they might want to lose on purpose, since they seem to be most comfortable coming back from 3-1 series deficits and double-digit leads within games.
All joking aside, the Nuggets will have to find a way to keep Nikola Jokic dominating the way he has been throughout the playoffs. The Clippers didn’t have an athletic big to slow him down, but the Lakers do with first team all defender Anthony Davis. Davis has been reluctant to play center his entire career, but during these playoffs has made the switch which has allowed LeBron James to play power forward. This is their ideal positions, especially in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how often Lakers Coach Frank Vogel will go to traditional bigs Dwight Howard and Javale McGee, two 7-footers that Jokic will likely dominate. Not that Jokic can’t dominate Davis, he’s the best offensive center in the game, but it will be more of a challenge to deal with Davis’ length and athleticism. This series will not be won in game one, but it could be an indicator of what’s to come during the rest of this series.
Lakers: 117 Nuggets: 111
Both the Lakers and Nuggets have been slow starters in past playoff series. They both take time to figure out their opponent before making game two adjustments. The Lakers will be the fresher team, having beaten the Rockets in five games in the second round. The Nuggets are coming off of back-to-back three games to one comebacks, being the only team to ever achieve that. Even with a few days off, they’ll still be tired and it’ll likely cost them a chance at game one.