The Los Angeles Lakers will play Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals tonight and — to the surprise of almost everyone who’s followed the NBA this season — the Clippers won’t be the team on the opposite end of the court.
The Clippers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets, who came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Clippers in seven games. It marked the second time they’ve came back from a 3-1 deficit this postseason, making them the first team in NBA history to do so.
The Clippers should have known that the Nuggets weren’t going to back down after falling to 3-1 in the series because of how they fought back in the previous round against the Utah Jazz, but they didn’t — they severely underestimated Denver. The Lakers don’t plan on making the same mistake.
After practice on Thursday, the Lakers had nothing but good things to say about the Nuggets and what they’ve been able to accomplish in the postseason so far.
“They’re a very resilient, very confident, very driven and a very well-coached team,” LeBron James said. “And it takes a lot of energy, effort and a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit, and they did it twice. So, the respect level it out of this world for what we have for this ball club, and that’s what we’ll go into this series understanding: what they’re capable of and where they stand.”
“Obviously, to do what they’ve done in this playoffs, coming back from 3-1 in both of their series, is phenomenal and something that we’ve never seen before,” added Anthony Davis. “They have a lot of confidence right now and it’s going to be tough matchup for us.”
But the Lakers aren’t discounting what they themselves have showed in the postseason either. In the first and second rounds, the Lakers won their series in five games despite the fact that both teams — the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets — were drastically different in the way they played.
The Nuggets might be the most talented and versatile team the Lakers have had to face thus far, but Davis is confident that they’ll be able to adapt once again, and he credits the coaching staff for instilling that confidence in the team.
“We’ve been doing a great job in being able to adjust each series,” Davis said. “The coaches have been excellent in breaking down film and giving us the things and tools we need to be successful. We’ve been great at adjusting and making sure we’re prepared for each opponent, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the same here.”
Notes and Updates
- Rajon Rondo was downgraded to questionable for Game 1 on Thursday due to back spasms. Rondo missed the second half of the first round for the same reason.
- Dion Waiters is doubtful to play in Game 1 due to a sore left groin. LeBron James (sore right groin) is probable.
- Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee were non-factors against the Houston Rockets. That is almost guaranteed to change against the Denver Nuggets, who have arguably the best center in the NBA in Nikola Jokic on their roster.
- LeBron James finished second in MVP voting on Friday. We’ll see if that gives him some extra motivation tonight.
The Lakers and Nuggets will tip-off at 6 p.m. on TNT.