In a shocking turn of events, the Los Angeles Lakers are facing the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. Twice down 3-1, the Nuggets have made a name for themselves by storming back in series against the Utah Jazz and L.A. Clippers.
While the Lakers have taken a far less stressful route to this round — needing just five games each to take care of the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets — their second extended break of the postseason could cause problems.
However, the history between the two franchises undoubtedly favors the Lakers, as they have never lost a playoff series to the Nuggets. L.A. is 6-0 all time against Denver in the postseason and 21-7 in individual playoff games.
Even this season, the Lakers had their way with Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and the rest of this deep Nuggets team. They won three of four head-to-head matchups, including a matchup in the bubble.
Here’s a look back on each time the Lakers have faced the Nuggets in the Western Conference playoffs.
2012 Western Conference First Round
In what would be the Lakers’ most recent playoff series win until 2020, L.A. fought until the very end against a gritty Nuggets roster. After trading Carmelo Anthony, Denver was led by Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried, and gave an aging Lakers roster trouble over seven games.
Led by Kobe Bryant, who averaged 29.1 points per game for the series, the Lakers were able to survive a 3-1 comeback by Denver with a 96-87 Game 7 victory. They won the series but would be eliminated the following round by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
2009 Western Conference Finals
After defeating the Rockets in the second round, the Lakers faced the Nuggets in the Conference Finals. In 2009, L.A. faced one of the best teams in Nuggets franchise history, led by Anthony, Chauncey Billups, JR Smith, Nene and Kenyon Martin.
Ultimately, Bryant’s 34 points per game and Pau Gasol’s 17.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per night proved to be too much. The Lakers closed the series in six games and went on to win the 2009 NBA championship.
2008 Western Conference First Round
The season before meeting in the conference finals, the Lakers and Nuggets played in the first round in what many hoped would be a title run for Bryant and Gasol. While they would eventually lose in the 2008 Finals to the Boston Celtics, they had absolutely no problems with the Nuggets.
Gasol and Bryant were completely dominant, and Luke Walton shined off the bench. Meanwhile, L.A.’s defense swarmed an offensively talented Denver team, sweeping the series by an average margin of 13.3 points per game.
1987 Western Conference First Round
L.A. needed just three games to take care of a lowly No. 8-seeded Nuggets team. Alex English, Fat Lever and Blair Rasmussen were the three main options in Denver, but they had absolutely nothing for Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.
The Lakers won 3-0 by an average margin of 27.3 points per game, including a 140-103 win in Game 3 and would eventually win the 1987 NBA Finals against the Celtics.
1985 Western Conference Finals
It was more of the same story two years earlier when L.A. faced the Nuggets in the penultimate round of the postseason. English was joined by a slightly better supporting cast including Dan Issel and Calvin Natt, but the Showtime Lakers were simply on a different level.
Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and Worthy would lift the Lakers to a 4-1 series victory by dominating in almost every facet. A 153-109 win in Game 5 solidified the Lakers’ spot in the Finals against the Celtics, where they would win the championship.
1979 Western Conference First Round
The first playoff matchup ever between these two teams saw Abdul-Jabbar carry a lackluster team past Issel and David Thompson when first round series were only a best-of-three.
It took all three games, and the Lakers narrowly eliminated the Nuggets, winning the final game by just one point. They then fell to the Seattle SuperSonics in just five games the following round.
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