11 years after the amazing head-to-head battle between Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony in the 2009 Western Conference Finals, the LA Lakers and Denver Nuggets will once again square off in the last stage before the NBA Finals. The stars are different, but the stakes are as high as ever.
This season, the Lakers and the Nuggets met each other in the regular season four times.
Los Angeles took the regular season series, 3-1, but all three of their wins were all under 10 points, while the one win of Denver was a blowout back in 22nd of December of last year, 128-104.
In the four times the two teams faced each other the stars of both teams came out and played at a high level.
For the Lakers, Anthony Davis averaged 29.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.5 steals while LeBron James only played three games in their match-ups but put up an average of 28.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 11.6 assists.
The Nuggets’ star duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray didn’t do bad for themselves either. Jokic averaged 16.2 points, 4.7 assists and 5.5 rebounds while Murray had 18.5 points and 5.7 assists.
Both squads shot the ball well against each other in their four meetings with both of them shooting 49.5% from the field. The Lakers rebounded the ball better with an average of 54.5 rebounds, but Denver forced the Lakers to more turnovers in their meetings averaging 14.2 per game.
Both teams did exceptionally well in the playoffs. The best basketball team in Los Angeles showcased their dominance in their first two playoff series, only losing twice. Each loss came in their series openers, and they promptly answered with four straight wins to first knock out the Portland Trail Blazers and then the Houston Rockets.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, have been making history one after another. After defeating the Clippers 104-89 in Game 7, they become the only team in the NBA to comeback from a 3-1 deficit in a series twice.
The Lakers have the more experienced line-up with veteran guys like James, Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee and JR Smith. Many of them have invaluable championship experience.
However, Denver’s role players contribute more than the role players of the Lakers. Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr, Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris and Gary Harris all played significant minutes to help the Nuggets win their first two series.
Certainly, Los Angeles has the experience advantage but after Denver’s two historic comebacks, one has to at least entertain the thought that they could somehow pull off a win in this series. They’re a massive underdog again, but that was the case against the Clippers, too.
The last time the Lakers and the Nuggets went head-to-head, Bryant averaged 34 points, including two 40-point performances in Games 1 and 3. Anthony on the other hand, went down swinging putting up 27.5 points in the series and guarding Bryant in most of the series.
A seven-game clash between last two teams in the West would be a dream scenario for fans. One team has showcased dominance throughout the playoffs and are looking to again snowball their way to their first Finals appearance since 2010. The other has been creating history and are now looking to pull off yet another huge upset and finally give their city its very first Finals appearance.
Whatever happens, all I know is that this should be a fun series. I can’t wait.
Game 1 begins on Saturday, September 19, at 9:00 AM Manila time.