The Western Conference Finals match-up is set. The LeBron-led Los Angeles Lakers will face the 2-time MVP Nikola Jokic and his Denver Nuggets. A clash between familiar foes in what would be a blockbuster best-of-seven series featuring two of the world’s best in the game.
This would be an encore of the 2020 western conference finals match-up between these two great teams where LeBron and the Lakers stood as victors after beating Jokic and the Nuggets in only five games in their first playoff-series match-up three years ago.
However, things would look significantly different between the Lakers and the Nuggets this time around. The Nuggets hold the best record in the West by winning 53 games while the Lakers had to crawl from the Play-In tournament to even sniff the first round. Not to mention, the Denver Nuggets had the 5th best offensive rating in the NBA in the whole regular season while the Lakers were in the abysmal 20th rank percentile.
Although, the Lakers had the best turnaround of the season. After starting from a 2-10 record in their first 12 games of the 2022-23 season, they looked dead in the water as another failure of a season was set to doom them. However, after the all-star break, they managed to let an aging former MVP point guard Russel Westbrook go to acquire a young and stable point guard D’angelo Russel from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a promising 25-year-old forward Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards before the trade deadline and vastly improved their overall team dynamics. Since then, the Lakers improved to 4th best in defensive rating while the Nuggets remained in the top 15.
Despite all that, Nikola Jokic is still a force to be reckoned with that poses great problems for every team. Jokic is having, yet again, another MVP-caliber season after averaging 24ppg, 11.8rpg, 9.8apg, 1.3spg, and 0.7bpg on 63.2/38.3/82.2 shooting splits. He finished 2nd behind the eventual MVP Joel Embiid in the MVP race.
Jokic even immensely improved in this year’s playoffs by averaging a monster 30.7ppg, 12.8rpg, 9.7apg, 1.1spg, and 0.7bpg as he and the Nuggets easily dispatched the Timberwolves in the first round, and handily sent Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns home in the semis. Not to mention the return of Michael Porter Jr, and his co-star Jamal Murray to share the court with him which makes them complete juggernauts and a huge obstacle to hurdle for teams going against them.
However, Lebron and Davis are the vanguards for the Lakers both offensively and defensively. Together, they are combined for almost 45 points, over 24 rebounds, and 4 blocks per game in this year’s playoffs. Jokic may be having a monstrous season but LeBron and Davis have proven to slow everyone down with their suffocating perimeter and post defense, and their dynamic frontcourt offense. They sent Ja Morant and his second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies home in the first round and eliminated the defending champions Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the semis.
Having everything considered, will Jokic and the Nuggets erase the horrors of 2020 and redefine history, or will LeBron and the Lakers set a reunion with destiny?
First game tip-offs at 8:30 am on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 (GMT+8)