Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers won all three of their Western Conference playoff series in five games but the Denver Nuggets made them work harder for their gentleman’s sweep than any other team. In fact, had Anthony Davis not drained that buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Game 2, it would have been at least a six-game series.
While there are nine games left in the season, the Lakers and Nuggets are currently projected to play each other in the first round of this year’s NBA Playoffs and Denver promises to be a tough out once again. Even with Jamal Murray sidelined, the Nuggets have maintained their status as one of the NBA’s elite offensive teams, posting an offensive rating of 117.9 in the 10 games they’ve played without him. They’ve gone 9-1 in those games.
The engine that makes them go is none other than Nikola Jokic, who’s arguably the favorite to win the MVP award this season. Through 64 games, Jokic has averaged 26.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 56.8% from the field and 41.2% from 3-point range.
The Lakers were able to minimize his impact in the postseason last year by putting Dwight Howard on him but even then, he still averaged 21.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals per game in that five-game series. He’s a handful.
Frank Vogel has enough size between Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol to keep Jokic honest but it will take the right combination for that size to really matter. Maybe Sunday is finally the day we see that Gasol-Montrezl Harrell lineup Vogel has been teasing for the last month.
The Lakers and Nuggets will tip-off at 7 p.m. PT and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Notes and Updates
- LeBron James left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and did not return.
- An injury report will be provided soon.