Why Los Angeles Lakers Still Have Realistic Chance To Upset Nuggets

5 min readApr 24, 2024

While the doubters and naysayers have declared the Los Angeles Lakers dead in the water after Game 2’s crushing loss, the reality is the Denver Nuggets are lucky to be up 2–0 and have just held serve on home court.

While last night’s discouraging loss to the Nuggets was the Lakers’ 10th straight in row, this was not only the closest game but also the first time the Lakers showcased their new 3-point prowess and almost won the game.
Headed back home to L.A., there’s no reason to believe the Lakers will be anything but greatly encouraged at how they shot the ball and competed last night. If anything, the Lakers cannot wait to play the Nuggets again.

The Lakers and Nuggets first round playoff series now moves to Los Angeles for two critical games on Thursday and Saturday nights, which the Lakers desperately need to win to even up the series at 2 games each.
While many NBA observers have already written the Lakers off after having lost ten straight games to the Nuggets, the reality despite the record is that the two teams are fairly evenly matched when both are fully healthy.

The Lakers’ problem is they’re missing two of their bigs in in 6' 10" forward Jarred Vanderbilt and 6' 10" forward Christian Wood. That’s left them with just three playable bigs: Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Jaxson Hayes.
The good news is there’s a realistic chance one of Vando or Wood may be healthy enough to play on Thursday. Having one or both of these players available the rest of this series and the rest of the playoffs could be critical.

Last season’s conference finals sweep and L.A.’s current 10-game losing streak have totally distorted how evenly matched L.A. and Denver are. Let’s look at the bad news and good news that support L.A. winning the series.

The Bad News!

The Bad News is the Los Angeles Lakers lost their 10th straight game to the Denver Nuggets, blowing a 20-point lead and opportunity to steal home court advantage and set themselves up to win the series in L.A. in 6 games.

To say this was a crushing defeat is an understatement. After doing almost everything right to build a 15-point half-time lead and 20-point lead early in the 3rd quarter, the Lakers once again took their foot off the proverbial gas.
This time it was a 5-minute period in the third quarter that cut the lead in half and multiple stretches in the fourth quarter that eventually eliminated the rest of the Lakers’ lead and opened the door for the Nuggets win.

Statistically, the game was a reversal of Game 1, where the Nuggets outshot the Lakers from three by 21 points. This time, the Lakers’ newfound prowess from deep prevailed and L.A. won the 3-point war by 15 points.
Unfortunately, the Nuggets won the free throw battle in Game 2 by 5 made free throws after losing it to L.A. by 12 made free throws in Game 1. Lakers average 25 free throws per game but shot just 13 free throws in Game 2.

Once again, the Lakers’ lack of size due to the injuries to Christian Wood and Jarred Vanderbilt was costly as L.A. lost both the points-in-the-paint and offensive and defensive rebounding battles to the bigger Nuggets.
Los Angeles likely blew their best opportunity to make this a series. While the Lakers next two games are at home, the harsh reality is that the Denver Nuggets currently have a 4-game winning streak at Crypto.com Arena.

After losing their 10th straight game to Denver Nuggets, the odds of the Los Angeles Lakers turning things around and beating the world champions in four of the next five playoff games don’t even qualify as a puncher’s chance.

The Good News!

The good news is, though the path is challenging and the odds long, the Los Angeles Lakers still have a realistic opportunity not only to win this series but also to win the Western Conference and make it to the NBA Finals.

Due to their slow start, the Lakers have essentially been in various levels of playoff mode for over a month. They’ve survived by focusing on winning one game at a time and that’s what we should expect the next two games.
When you’ve lost 10 in a row to them, it’s hard to believe all the Nuggets did by winning those two games in Denver was hold home court but that’s the truth. If the Lakers can win their two at home, the series will be even.

Despite losing both games, the Lakers shot better from the field (49.0% to 45.3%) and from deep (35.6% to 35.3%) than the Nuggets. Last year, Denver shot better from the field (49.3% to 47.6%) and from deep (40.3% to 34.9%).
Where the Lakers are getting killed in on the boards and in the paint but it looks like reinforcements may be on the way with both Christian Wood and Jarred Vanderbilt hopefully available to play starting Thursday night.

Right now, the Lakers can’t look any further ahead than the next game but if they can win Thursday and Saturday nights, the series will be tied 2–2 and the Lakers will be the team with the winning streak and momentum.
The addition of Wood and Vanderbilt should enable the Lakers to better match the Nuggets on the boards and in the paint and it’s highly unlikely the Nuggets will shoot more free throws than the Lakers going forward.

The basketball gods giveth and taketh. Sometimes, what almost kills a team actually makes them better. The Lakers are angry and hungry and still have a viable path not only to winning this series but also winning #18.

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Lakers fanatic since 1971 when team traded for Wilt Chamberlain. Founder, editor, and publisher of Lakerholics.com, a community for smart informed Lakers fans.