After 10 years, the Los Angeles Lakers are back in the Western Conference Finals after a dominating Game 5 performance against the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers put together a total team effort on both ends, showcasing how they can takeover a game in an instant. It had the makings of a blowout after the first quarter when L.A. went up 35-20, but to their credit the Rockets battled back to bring it within single digits before the Lakers put their foot down in the second half.
While Los Angeles’ spot is secured, they will once again have to wait for their opponent as the L.A. Clippers and Denver Nuggets are heading to a Game 7.
The Clippers were a quarter away from clinching their first Western Conference Finals appearance, but the Nuggets mounted a fourth-quarter comeback in Game 5 to extend the series. They then rallied from a 19-point deficit in Game 6.
Denver head coach Mike Malone is well-aware that the NBA is expecting an all-Los Angeles matchup Conference Finals, but he and his team are not going to go down without a fight. “We’re not going home yet, we ain’t gone fishing yet,” Malone said.
“We’re going to live to play a Game 6 and try to stretch this series out and try to win it. I know everybody is excited about the Lakers playing the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals, but we’re hoping to have something to say about that.”
All year long, analysts have pegged the L.A. teams to make it out of the Western Conference, but Malone has done an excellent job of putting Denver in position to at least threaten that from happening.
Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic form a solid tandem of their own and have proven they can hang with the Clippers stars when push comes to shove. While Game 6 will surely be a battle, the odds are that the Clippers and Lakers do have their long-awaited series and prove who is the better team.
Frank Vogel explains being able to adjust and adapt in playoffs
The Lakers built the team on size and defense, and that has been made apparent so far in the postseason. However, their second-round series against the Rockets showed L.A. are also able to downsize when needed.
That kind of versatility is what has impressed head coach Frank Vogel. “It’s a fine line and there’s always some balance there,” he said.
“You want to be yourself as much as possible in these situations, but this is what I loved about our regular-season plan with our team. That was to play some small and some big in every game that we played all year.
“There’s a hybrid element to our team, so we’re able to shift and play bigger minutes with a big lineup if we need to, and bigger minutes with a small lineup if we need to come playoff time.
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