After blowing two golden opportunities to steal a win in Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers still remain on course again to win the series in six games by winning their three home games and stealing one game on the road.
As impressive as Jokic, Murray, and the Nuggets were in their two wins over the Lakers, the reality is they needed a superstar performance that’s probably irreplicable in each game to barely hold home court advantage. Michael Malone can be proud of what his Nuggets accomplished in Denver but this series is far from over and what advantage Denver has right now could be gone by Monday night if the Lakers win their two home games.
The Lakers are a perfect 7–0 in this postseason, winning one home play-in game and six home playoff games in rounds 1 and 2. They dominated all six home playoff games, winning by 18.3 points per game with a 98.3 DefRtg. The Nuggets are going to need another transcendent performance from Jokic or Murray to beat the Lakers at home. Far as Lakers are concerned, they’re right on course to win this series in six games just as planned.
Championships in the NBA are won by superstars and it’s hard to imagine the championship-tested LeBron James and Anthony Davis being outplayed by the Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. They’re have to prove they belong. LeBron James may be old and hurt and Anthony Davis frustratingly inconsistent but there’s no way they’re not going to come out tonight and angrily dominate the Nuggets with the crowd screaming for a massacre.
The Lakers now know they must slow down both Jokic and Murray, which could mean starting both Hachimura and Vanderbilt, who have shown to be the best answers Darvin Ham has to defend the Nuggets’ superstars. They also know they need to dominate the boards and points in the paint, which to me means letting Reaves, Hachimura, and Walker be the outside shooters and having James and Davis dominate the paint and the rim.
The Lakers need to double down on going big and relentlessly punish both Jokic and Murray by targeting them with James and Davis. Put them on the bench with fouls. Wear them out on Defense. Get to the free throw line.
The Lakers know the best way to setup their defense is to get to the line on offense. That means no more ‘hero threes’ from LeBron and Anthony, no more settling for jumpers. Attack the paint and rim relentlessly.
The Lakers are still of the course to win the series is six games. Win Game 3 and 4 at home, steal Game 5 on the road, and close it in Game 6 at home. Lakers pull off improbable back-door sweep and roll into the NBA Finals.