Two familiar faces meet up in this year’s Western Conference Finals. The number one-seeded Denver Nuggets takes on the resurgent Los Angeles Lakers for a right to play in the NBA Finals. The series is a rematch of what took place in the bubble during the height of the coronavirus pandemic that began in March 2020.
The Lakers would win the series 4-1 over the Nuggets and cruise to another world championship in their prestigious history. Three years later, the two franchises meet again. The faces that are on the court remain the same; however, there is one player that has gotten significantly better. The player that we are referring to is Denver’s Nikola Jokić.
The Serbian native has emerged as one of the league’s premier players after winning back-to-back Most Valuable Player Awards for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons. He was in the running to win his third-straight MVP Award for the 2022-2023 campaign but finished second behind eventual winner, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. The Joker is averaging 30.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 9.7 assists per game in the playoffs. To break everything down, the staff at Strike 7 Sports have come together to give their picks and predictions for this year’s Western Conference Finals.
The Western Conference Finals is finally here. After the regular season, we expected one of these teams to make it in the Denver Nuggets. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Lakers have figured it out after reshaping their roster at the trade deadline. Nikola Jokić is making a solid case to be the best player in the NBA. The Lakers will go as far as Anthony Davis takes them. Whoever is the better player between Jokić and Davis will significantly impact the outcome of this series. In the end, the Lakers have the deeper team, which helps them advance to the NBA Finals in 6 games.
Pick: Lakers in 6
The Lakers’ style of play during the postseason reinforces the notion that rebounding and efficient defense are critical elements to winning championships. Los Angeles has defeated previous playoff opponents such as the Grizzlies and the Warriors simply off of having a significant size advantage when it comes to rim protecting.
Could they follow the same path against the Nuggets? It’s highly possible, but it will not be as easy as it was against Golden State and Memphis. Jokić is a talent that can legitimately defend at the rim and could provide his team with opportunities to make second-chance buckets. However, Denver will need more than the Joker to knock off the red-hot Lakers.
That’s where players such as point guard Jamaal Murray steps in. After missing the 2021-2022 campaign due to tearing his ACL in April 2021, Murray is finally back in the fold with the Nuggets. During the postseason, the former Kentucky Wildcat has shown glimpses of the player he was during the bubble in Orlando.
If Murray can have a similar performance against the Lakers, it will significantly increase their chances of winning the series. But it’s hard to go against a Lakers team that seems to be clicking on all cylinders right now. Especially when AD is playing like the talent acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans, in both playoff series, they have proven me wrong; I will not pick against them for the third-straight time. The Lakers will return to the Finals, but it will not be easy.
Pick: Lakers in 7
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