NBA: Ahead of West finals, Lakers give Nuggets props for improbable run


Posted at Sep 19 2020 01:21 AM

The Lakers are favored to beat the Nuggets, although if there's one thing LeBron James and co. don't want to do it is to underestimate a team that has no quit in it. Kevin C. Cox, Pool Photo via AP

They may be the No. 1 seed and have the best record among the teams still in contention, but the Los Angeles Lakers refused to look past their next opponent in the Western Conference finals -- the surprising Denver Nuggets. 

The Lakers are favored to beat the Nuggets and advance to the 2020 NBA Finals, although if there's one thing LeBron James and co. don't want to do it is to underestimate a team that has no quit in it. 

Game 1 is on Friday (US time).

"Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team," James said of the Nuggets.

"It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. 

"That's how we're going into this series -- understanding what they're capable of, where they stand."

Denver advanced to this stage by doing the improbable -- win back-to-back series despite being down 3-1. 

Against Kawhi Leonard and the hyped Los Angeles Clippers in the West semifinals, the Nuggets were down by double digits in Games 5 to 7 but managed to win all three.

The Lakers, meanwhile, appeared to have had an easy road to get to this point, overwhelming the Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets in a pair of gentleman's sweeps. 

While James and Anthony Davis have led the Lakers, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have paced Denver, with Jokic supplying a lot of everything and Murray offensive firepower. 

Jokic's do-it-all style of play wasn't loss on James, known as the ultimate complete basketball package.

"When you have the best player on the team, one of the best players on the team, not really caring about himself at all for the better of the team, that sends a message to the rest of the group," James said, referring to Jokic. 

As much as the Lakers have given the Nuggets props for what they've accomplished in these playoffs, Jokic said many continue to underestimate Denver. 

"I think they're (Lakers) really focused. You can just see how they're playing. Even the Portland series, the Houston series, they are really locked in," Jokic said. 

"They will not take us for granted. We kind of surprised the Clippers. Probably they don't want to make that happen to them, so I think they're going to be really focused and really locked in."

Nuggets coach Mike Malone said that after their confidence-boosting victory over the Clippers he wanted to see his squad build on that momentum. 

"They're (Lakers) going to try to come out and send a message tomorrow (Friday). I don't think our guys are satisfied," Malone said. 

"That's going to be the greatest challenge tomorrow, can we match the intensity. I thought in Game 1 against the Clippers we did it for a quarter and a half, couldn't sustain it. I think we were just gassed."