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Lakers keep their guard up, taking upset-minded Nuggets with caution

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. &#8212 On the working day the All-NBA groups were being launched, it was striking how handful of are left in the bubble.

Most likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and previous MVP James Harden were being knocked out in the 2nd spherical fellow initial-teamer Luka Doncic was long gone in the initial. 2nd-workforce position guards Damian Lillard and Chris Paul could not get initial-spherical wins Pascal Siakam’s title defense fell brief as did Kawhi Leonard’s quest for a 2nd straight.

On the All-NBA initial workforce, the elite of the elite, only two continue to be: LeBron James, a unanimous choice, and his teammate Anthony Davis. They are facing the sole survivor on the 2nd workforce, Nikola Jokic, on Friday.

In point, the Lakers have a spectacular knowledge gain around the a few other remaining groups in the discipline. They have six gamers who have won titles, which includes James who is the all-time leader in playoff minutes. Only the Miami Heat have other gamers who have won a championship: Andre Iguodala, who was a foundational member of the Golden Point out Warriors, and Udonis Haslem, who won two of his rings with James.

The shocking dissolution of the Clippers’ campaign would seemingly give the Lakers the nod as the title favored. But Coach Frank Vogel, careful as ever moving into the Western Meeting Finals, mentioned he and the Lakers really don’t see things that way.

“My perception is our fellas, and I know our coaching team feels this way, feel that any 1 of these a few groups remaining can conquer us, and the Denver Nuggets are a marvelous basketball workforce,” he mentioned. “So are the Boston Celtics, so are the Miami Heat. So while we have gamers that have been there, we have not been there as a group however. So we’re nevertheless tremendous hungry to get the work accomplished, recognizing and respecting the opponents that are nevertheless remaining.”

The Nuggets have already proven it’s a mistake to doubt them. In NBA background, there’s only been 13 cases when a workforce has arrive back again from a 3-1 lead: 12 and 13 have been this Denver squad, which turned the initial NBA workforce to arrive back again twice in a year. 

Substantially of the NBA was stunned when the Clippers, 1 of the longtime title favorites, were being vanquished on Tuesday in a Recreation 7 blowout. When the Lakers had started planning extra for the Clippers than the Nuggets when Denver was 1 recreation from elimination, they corrected the equilibrium as the sequence went on.

Kyle Kuzma mentioned if anything, the improbability of Denver’s storm back again to win their 2nd spherical sequence left the Lakers amazed.

“They just have a large amount of combat,” he mentioned. “They really don’t actually give up. They always try to enjoy to win no make any difference if they are down 19, which they were being in Recreation 5 and 6, nevertheless coming back again and winning. So it kind of just tells you the story of what kind of heart that workforce has.”

The team’s two stars have propelled them this much. Jamal Murray is the newest knockdown scorer the Lakers will try to tranquil, averaging 27.1 details, 6.4 helps and 5. rebounds while capturing an unbelievable 49 % from 3-position range.

Jokic, even so, might be the trickier matchup. Capturing 44 % on his own 3-ideas, the 7-foot Serbian also has a reputation as 1 of the game’s craftiest passers. When the Lakers foresee that they’ll be ready to put JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard back again in the lineup towards Denver’s dimension, they’ll be challenged to defend the perimeter as effectively as the inside.

“He can hurt you at the 3-position line, in the pocket, enjoying the 4-on-3 recreation in the submit, and clearly with his passing,” Vogel mentioned. “They understand his skills up there passing the basketball and do a good work pace chopping through the lane. They make it quite challenging to guard.”

The Lakers, of system, hope their knowledge and talent performs a part. For James, it was his 16th All-NBA workforce berth, the 13th placement on the initial workforce. For Davis, it was the fourth time he’s been on the initial workforce. It has been extra than a decade due to the fact two All-NBA initial-teamers came from the same roster: Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudamire in 2007.

The very last time two Lakers designed it: Shaquille O&#8217Neal and Kobe Bryant in 2004.

“Our coaching team has set a high bar for accountability and treatment aspect of each and every possession,&#8221 Vogel mentioned, &#8220but Anthony and LeBron have taken that lead from us and actually set that tone in tactics and film classes and every little thing that we’re doing away from the court to make positive we’re at our finest arrive recreation time. If your coaching team is raising the bar with accountability and your participant management is potent, you’re likely to have a perception of urgency each individual time you acquire the court.”

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