The temperature is rising in the NBA Playoffs as the hotshot LA Lakers and fairytale Denver Nuggets gear up for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
11:00 (AEST), Sat 19th Sep @ AdventHealth Arena, Orlando
History: Played 207: Lakers 129 V Nuggets 78
Last meeting: August 10, 2018: Lakers 124 d Nuggets 121 at AdventHealth Arena
Final Thoughts: LA Lakers will start as warm favourites to advance to the NBA Finals from the West. But as the Jazz and Clippers can attest, you can’t sleep on Denver Nuggets in the Conference Finals.
The Nuggets have created history by becoming the first team in history to recover from multiple 3-1 deficits in the same post-season. Jamal Murray’ record-breaking points hauls pegged Denver back into the series against Utah, before Nikola Jokic’s polish finished it off.
But Jokic was the undisputed star as the Nuggets pulled off an improbable comeback against the Clippers. The big man averaged 24.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 6.6 rebounds across the Semi-finals. In Game 7, Jokic had 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists while Murray went off for 40 points.
The Lakers have had a far less strenuous road to this point. They outmuscled the Blazers and Rockets by 4-1 margins, despite losing consecutive Game 1s.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis were impressive as the Lakers rebuffed the challenge of the Rockets. LeBron averaged 25.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists across the series. Davis averaged 25.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo’s return has added another dimension to the Lakers.
Recent history gives little away
The Lakers won three of their four regular-season clashes with the Nuggets. LeBron James (29 pts, 12 ast) led the way in a 124-121 seeding game victory, with Kyle Kuzma hitting the game-winning three with less than a second on the clock. But the Nuggets only gave their starting five 25 minutes or less on the court.
The teams have met in six playoffs series – with the Lakers winning all six. Their most recent post-season encounter was in the 2012 First Round, Kobe Bryant steering the Lakers through in seven games.
Game 1 shapes as a battle between momentum and condition. The Nuggets are riding high after their three straight wins to stun the Clippers, but they have had two days’ rest. The Lakers’ last game was six days ago. Jokic is the obvious key for Denver but he’ll find the going tougher against Davis. Expect the Lakers to draw first blood.