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NBA Playoffs Preview: Denver Nuggets Vs Los Angeles Lakers

The NBA playoffs are upon us, and one of the biggest matchups in the first round is a rematch of last season's Western Conference Finals. In 2023, the Denver Nuggets decimated their competition on the way to their first championship in franchise history, and the Los Angeles Lakers were their final victims before reaching the NBA Finals. It was one of the rare instances where Lebron James did not win a single game in a playoff series, and losing to Nikola Jokic established Jokic as an all-time great before the age of 30.  

Now, this season, the Lakers are in a similar position after some injuries affected their roster and ruined their rotations. Even though they lost Christian Wood and Jarred Vanderbilt, Their 47-35 record was good enough to make the 7th seed. They defeated the New Orleans Pelicans in the Play-In tournament 110-106, and now the rematch is set. 

 The Nuggets dominated throughout the regular season to claim the 2nd seed, putting the Lakers back in the same playoff position as last season. Laker fans are hopeful of a different result, but the Nuggets haven’t regressed at all. Jokic is amongst the candidates for Most Valuable player, and Head Coach Micheal Malone has personal disdain for the Lakers after last season.

During the 2023 playoffs, the media established a narrative of the Lakers trying to climb an uphill battle rather than the rise of the future champions, led by the reigning MVP. This enraged Malone, and the unfair coverage from the mainstream media lit a fire under the entire roster. Their first-round matchup has reignited the flame, and the Lakers can finally seek revenge after getting embarrassed last summer. 

This time, Anthony Davis will play a more significant role as he played 76 games this season, and his durability will allow more aggression in the paint when crashing the boards. Davis averaged 27.1 points and 12.6 rebounds per game with 2.3 blocks this season. His newfound durability has allowed him to utilize the complete skill set that makes him a superstar. The Lakers will also have a chip on their shoulder, and the memory of getting swept last year will entice them to try harder on every possession, especially Lebron, knowing his highly competitive personality.

 With Lebron turning 39 years old this season, the window is slowly closing for him to achieve even more glory in his career.  Even though he is an anomaly, he is still human, and the Lakers will have to salvage what they can to avoid putting so much on his back. After suffering an injury to his right foot versus the Dallas Mavericks in February of 2023, concerns began to develop about the state of his body. Darvin Ham must find a way for other key players, such as Austin Reeves and shooter Gabe Vincent, to score double figures a night consistently to claim the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Given last year's results, the Nuggets will be highly confident during the entirety of the series. They know their roster was a bad stylistic matchup the previous year, and they have looked outstanding all season. Jokic is coming into the series averaging 26 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists per game. Costar Jamal Murray is averaging 21 points and 6.5 assists while shooting % 48.1. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers deal with their pick-n-roll and how the Nuggets will deal with a healthy Davis while Lebron continues his streak of good performances. 

The series will be a chess match full of adjustments night by night. Malone and Ham will be locked in a mental battle that will put their basketball IQ to the test. Even though the seedings are No. 2 versus No. 7, Both teams have future Hall Of Famers, which will make for an epic clash. The stage is set for Game 1 Saturday night, and only time will tell who will win part 2 of the Denver Nuggets versus the Los Angeles Lakers. 


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