The Denver Nuggets stand in the way of LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers making another NBA finals appearance. James emphasized that the Lakers are heading into the Western Conference finals with the “utmost respect” for the Nuggets.
“They’ve been the No. 1 team in the West for a reason, and they’ve played exceptional basketball all year and we’re going [to Denver] with the utmost respect for their ball club, very well coached,” James explained during a May 13, 2023 press conference. “And obviously we know the dynamic of what Joker [Nikola Jokic] brings to the game and also Jamal Murray being back fully healthy and the rest of those guys.
“Tomorrow [Saturday] is a day for us to kind of get away from the game a little bit, just kind of chill with our families and kind of recoup a little bit. But Sunday and Monday and then part of Tuesday before the game starts we will lock in on what we need to do to try to be at our best versus a very very good, well-coached team. So, I look forward to it when it gets here.”
Anthony Davis on 2020 Western Conference Finals vs. Nuggets: ‘They’re a Different Team, We’re a Different Team’
The Lakers were able to make quick work of the Nuggets during the 2020 Western Conference finals as Los Angeles went on their way to win the NBA championship in the bubble postseason. Anthony Davis noted the Lakers will look at film from their 4-1 series victory in 2020 but added that both teams are “different.”
“It’s hard to say just because they’re a different team, we’re a different team,” Davis told reporters on May 13. “I think the biggest thing for us was obviously having Dwight [Howard] kind of disrupt [Jokic] a little bit. He’s obviously one of the two guys that kind of get them going, him and Jamal Murray.
“And actually, it’s funny that me and Bron talked about it earlier, about going back watching that series and kind of see what we did to kind of figure out how we can best match up and get victories over them. So, we’ll go back [and] look at it, but I think the biggest key was just [to] kind of make the ball find the guys we wanted to find and just played off of that.”
The Nuggets Are Favored Over the Lakers to Win the Western Conference Finals in the Opening Odds
Los Angeles was able to take advantage of their size advantage against Golden State, but this upcoming series will look remarkably different given the Nuggets’ success flows through big man Nikola Jokic. Davis mentioned Dwight Howard as being a major factor in the 2020 series, but Los Angeles does not have a similar player on their current roster.
Denver opens as a five-point favorite over Los Angeles in Game 1, per FanDuel. The Nuggets are also a sizable favorite to win the series and advance to the NBA finals at -140 compared to the Lakers’ +120 odds. Denver is second behind Boston in the championship odds at +240 with the Lakers coming in at No. 3 with +320.