The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to close out the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday as they hold a 3-1 lead, the third time they’ve done so in this postseason.
However, Nuggets head coach Mike Malone has felt this pressure before, as this is the third time they’ve faced a 3-1 deficit.
In the first round, the Nuggets trailed 3-1 against the Utah Jazz. They won three straight to advance to a matchup against the far superior L.A. Clippers. Again, they faced and overcame a 3-1 deficit. Now they’ll have a chance to do so against the Lakers, who are a perfect 2-0 in closeout games so far.
Malone said he felt no difference in this 3-1 deficit compared the previous two, even though the stakes are higher and the team they’re facing has been better. “No, not at all. Obviously, we have been here twice and we have answered the call, if you will,” Malone said.
“To be honest, I think in the second round against the Clippers, the Clippers were the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing, ahead of the Lakers. The Clippers are a great team.
“The Lakers are a great team. We’re down 3-1, again, unfortunately. I think people out there probably think this is exactly where we want them. It’s not. We would much rather be up 3-1, but it is what it is.
“We put ourselves in this position. Our team has shown tremendous resiliency and grit in getting out of these before. I have no doubt that [Saturday] night we’ll bring that same fight to the game and hopefully we can keep this series alive.”
While it’s never a great strategy to potentially insult your opponent right before a game where the can eliminate you from the postseason, Malone is rightfully unafraid. His team has proven on multiple occasions that they can never be counted out.
However, something has to give on Saturday, as the Lakers have shown that they don’t allow for these types of comebacks. They defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in a Game 5 closeout 131-122, and blew out the Houston Rockets in Game 5, 119-96.
The Nuggets certainly pose a greater threat than those two teams, which means both L.A. and Denver must have their best performances yet to stop the other from doing what they want.
Frank Vogel: Lakers face tall order to eliminate Nuggets
There is no doubt that the Lakers are prepared for a Nuggets teams that has a history of coming back into contention when down 3-1 in a series. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel praised the Nuggets while saying exactly what they need to do to win Game 5.
“They are extremely difficult to play against on both sides of the ball,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said.
“They are well-coached defensively, they have great speed and physicality. Obviously, Jamal and the Joker are just playing at an extremely high level offensively, as is their supporting cast. The bench has been fantastic.
“Great respect for this team and definitely know that we have a lot of work to do to finish this series.”
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