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The moment is here…This is where superstars become greats…and where greats become legends.
That statement couldn’t be a more perfect fit for these two franchises. With young players looking to make a mark on this league in Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, to made veterans looking to further their legacy in LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, this has the makings of a classic.
It’s the Western Conference Finals folks, time to put up or shut up.
Keys To The Game:
James and Anthony Davis have been stellar this playoffs and for obvious reasons. However, it will take more than those two to overpower the hungry Denver Nuggets.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green will be relied on heavily in this series along with the Lakers’ bigs. The Lakers will have to shoot the ball well as well as rebound to keep the quickness and “spit-fire” offense of Denver down. This means Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee will need to box out on Every. Single. Possession.
Jokíc cannot be allowed to facilitate from the middle of the floor, so sticking shooters will be imperative for the Laker defense. The Lakers will need to hedge the Nuggets dribble handoff/hybrid pick and roll offense to get Murray and others off rhythm. If they can do that, the Lakers will run away with their first conference title since 2010.
With all that being said, we can’t count out the Nuggets. Murray has been the life blood of the Nuggets’ offense throughout these playoffs and will need to continue to be if they want to advance to the Finals. His ability to shoot off-base shots will need to be on full display here, as well as his vision on the floor.
His running mate Jokíc will also need to be at his best. This Lakers team isn’t one to scoff at on defense and they have done well with defending bigs this season. If the Nuggets hope to compete, Jokíc will need to be at his most effective on the low block.
The Nuggets’ defense seems to know when to turn it on, but they can’t wait to be down 3-1 to do so. They will need to bring the intensity to the Lakers and not allow the Lakers to get out front early. Jokíc doesn’t do well defending the pick and roll and they are facing one of the best pick and roll teams in basketball. They will need for Jokíc to play to his size on defense and move his feet against the pick and roll to stop Davis and James.
If they can do that, this will be a long series that will play out in their favor.
Matchup To Watch:
Davis didn’t make the NBA All-Defensive first Team for no reason this year. His ability to guard and rotate makes him formidable and Nikola Jokíc will have his hands full on both ends of the floor.
Davis’ length can bother Jokíc’s patented off balance rainbow shot, and Davis will have to shoot the mid range to compensate for banging with Jokíc’s big frame for 30 plus minutes a game. Each will have to be the best player on the floor for their respective team to have success.
As competitive as the Nuggets have been, their Cinderella story has to end somewhere. The Lakers are too good on defense and have too much experience to fall here. The Lakers will take their lumps but will prevail 4-2 to advance to the NBA Finals.