Here it is! The one NBA fans have been waiting all season for! The showdown in the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles…oh crap, it’s the Denver Nuggets. Yes, the Denver freaking Nuggets after their second extraordinary 3-1 comeback in as many series during these playoffs.
Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic and head coach Mike Malone have led this Nuggets team to a place no one would have believed possible less than a week ago.
But can they create even more chaos with another upset win against the other Los Angeles team? The Lakers dropped game one to both the Trailblazers and the Rockets, before proceeding to rampage through both teams with a sense of aplomb.
Key Matchup: Anthony Davis v Nikola Jokic
Although the Lakers may possess the best player in the game in Lebron James, there’s no wing on the Nuggets capable of getting anywhere near matching what James will undoubtedly produce. It’s for this reason that the most intriguing individual matchup comes in the big man department. Critics may argue these two play different positions, but in the crux of things, in clutch minutes down the stretch, Lakers coach Frank Vogel will most likely go with Davis at the five.
If Denver are to go anywhere close to winning this series, they’ll need the big Serbian to be the best player on the floor over the course of the series. That’s a big ask against James and Davis, however he faced and conquered the same scenario against the Clippers and Kawhi Leonard. In Davis, the Lakers have an elite defender in the big man department, something the Clippers didn’t which subsequently allowed Jokic to run amok.
Key Question Marks
Los Angeles – The Supporting Crew
We know we’ll see big numbers and output from James and Davis, but how about the remainder of the Lakers roster? Perhaps the greatest aspect of James’ game is his ability to facilitate for teammates and make them better. The Lakers look at their best when the likes of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma are knocking down the open shots provided for them. Just as equally, the Lakers look at their worst when these players can’t buy a bucket even if left alone at their local gym.
Denver Nuggets – Again... The Supporting Crew…
In what was very strange and controversial, Nuggets young gun Michael Porter Jnr publicly criticised his coach and two star players after their game four loss to the Clippers. What’s even stranger is that, when you’d think such words would hurt and divide a playing group, it actually seemed to unite them as they went on to win three straight games. His criticism stemmed from the fact he thought too much was being left to Jokic and Murray. The Nuggets supporting crew need to outplay and produce more than that of their Laker counterparts if they are to stand a chance in this series.
This Nuggets team have done nothing but overcome obstacle after obstacle in the past month, and it would be a brave man to completely write them off given their achievements to date. In saying that, and unlike the Eastern Conference Finals, this series seems very one sided. As previously stated, the Nuggets will need Jokic to be the best player in the series, and for their supporting crew to outplay the Lakers’, in order to get close to winning. Add in the potential mental and physical fatigue from their previous two series, and it just seems like way too much to overcome, particularly for such a young roster.
Look for James and Davis to dominate as the Lakers comfortably advance to their first NBA finals since 2010.
Lakers to win 4-1
Best Bet: With James able to facilitate freely and with ease, look for Davis to be the series top point scorer @ 2.15
The Western Conference Finals begins at 11am on Saturday Australian time.