The Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers will face off in the Western Conference Finals in the 2023 NBA playoffs. The Nuggets were expected to be a contender for this stage as the No. 1 seed in the conference, while the Lakers have knocked off two supposed threats en route to this series including the defending champions Warriors. Here’s a look at how these teams shape up heading into this series.
No. 1 Nuggets vs. No. 7 Lakers
Head-to-head record: Tied 2-2
Overall record: Nuggets 53-29, Lakers 43-39
Leading scorer on Nuggets: Nikola Jokic
Leading scorer on Lakers: LeBron James
Odds to win series: Nuggets -150, Lakers +125
The Nuggets looked a bit ruffled in the second round against the Suns when they played in Phoenix, but slowly found their groove again offensively and eventually had too much depth for the Suns to handle. That won’t be the case here, as LA’s rotation can go nine deep with ease. Jokic is showing why he won two MVPs in a row recently, while Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. continue to be valuable supporting stars. If Aaron Gordon can replicate his defense on Kevin Durant in this matchup against LeBron James, it could be a quick series for the Nuggets.
The Lakers looked like a team that wouldn’t have enough juice to make the playoffs, but they acquired some key rotation pieces at the trade deadline and got unexpected contributions from others in the playoffs. James and Anthony Davis remain the pivotal players for this team, but Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker and Jarred Vanderbilt have all had big moments. LA doesn’t have much pressure here as the lower seed and will get a few days of rest before this matchup, which allows James to recharge his batteries as he goes for yet another NBA Finals appearance.