Once again the Los Angeles Lakers were afforded plenty of rest in between playoff series. After again dropping Game 1, the Lakers reeld off four straight wins to dispatch the Houston Rockets in five games.
It has given the Lakers six days off before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, as the Denver Nuggets came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the L.A. Clippers in their second-round matchup.
Like the Lakers, Denver also followed the same script in the opener of each of their playoff series. Furthermore, the Nuggets are the first team in NBA history to twice come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the same postseason.
Now the Lakers and Nuggets play a rematch of the 2009 Western Conference Finals, which L.A. won in six games en route to a championship.
Denver poses a major threat to the Lakers with one of the most explosive offenses in the entire league, knocking down 39% of their 3-pointers in the playoffs. And they are led by one of the best young duos in the NBA in Nikola Jokic, considered by many as the NBA’s best center, and one of the most promising point guards in Jamal Murray.
The Lakers’ calling card the playoffs has been defense as they’ve done a great job in stifling some of the league’s top stars and offenses so far. All the while having the versatility to adjust to whatever style is needed to succeed.
Before these two teams kick off their Western Conference Finals matchup, let’s take a look back at how they fared against each other during the season.
Dec. 3: Lakers 105, Nuggets 96
Anthony Davis was dealing with flu-like symptoms, but still came through with 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Lakers to the victory. LeBron James added 25 points and nine assists as the Lakers, who had just had their 10-game winning streak snapped, started up another with this victory.
Jamal Murray led Denver with 22 points while Paul Millsap added 21, but the Lakers’ defense was stifling. Denver shot just 40.7% from the field and 20.7% from 3-point range. The Lakers’ bigs also gave Jokic fits, holding him to 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go along with eight assists.
The Lakers also got 42 points from their bench, led by Dwight Howard’s 13 points and six rebounds, and Rajon Rondo contributing 11 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Dec. 22: Nuggets 128, Lakers 104
With James in street clothes, the Nuggets dominated the second half on their way to a blowout victory in the second matchup. Denver had six players score in double-figures led by Paul Millsap’s 21 points and 19 points and four steals from Gary Harris.
Davis did everything he could with 32 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, but Kyle Kuzma was the only other Laker in double-figures with 16 points. The Lakers also did themselves no favors with 19 turnovers compared to Denver’s eight. L.A. also committed 25 fouls leading to 30 free throw attempts for the Nuggets, of which they made 27.
One positive note was the Lakers’ defense on Murray, who scored just six points on 3-for-11 shooting. However, Jokic had an efficient 18 points on just eight shot attempts.
Feb. 12: Lakers 120, Nuggets 116 (OT)
In one of the best games of the season, the Lakers entered the All-Star break with an impressive overtime victory on the road thanks to their superstars. James had a triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists, while Davis led the Lakers with 33 points to go along with 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Murray had 32 points and 10 assists, and Nikola Jokic added 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in a back and forth contest that saw both teams fight back from deficits. The Lakers also got major bench contributions from Howard’s 14 points and 11 rebounds and Alex Caruso who pitched in 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Both teams shot at least 50% from the field but the Lakers had one of their worst performances from the line, missing 13 of 27 attempts. They stepped things up defensively down the stretch and in overtime, forcing Jokic into multiple mistakes in crunch time.
Aug. 10: Lakers 124, Nuggets 121
Kuzma knocked down a 3-pointer over Bol Bol with 0.4 seconds remaining to give the Lakers their last win of the seeding games. He famously followed it by saying the shot was going up even if Jesus was playing defense.
Kuzma finished with 25 points, James had a double-double with 29 points and 12 assists, and Anthony Davis poured in 27.
Eight Nuggets scored in double-figures as Denver chose to rest their starters in the fourth quarter. An all-bench lineup nonetheless made things much tougher on the Lakers than anyone expected.
P.J. Dozier scored 18 points, while Michael Porter Jr. was perfect from the field and finished with 15 points.
Both teams were again outstanding offensively and the Lakers were boosted by a huge 3-point performance as they knocked down 14 of 29 attempts from deep including 5-for-11 from James.
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