The Lakers came into the Western Conference Finals with all the confidence you could have. They just came off a dominant series win against the reigning champs, and many pundits and fans were predicting they’d upset yet another team on their way to the Western Conference Finals. Alas, it has not gone that way against the Nuggets. They’ve been outclassed in every way. In Game 1, they lost a shootout. In Game 2, it was a defensive slugfest that they came up just short in. And in Game 3, with the Lakers at home and favored to win, their offense seemed to be stuck in quicksand. After scoring 126 points in Game 1, the Lakers have averaged just 105.5 points in Games 2 and 3. So what do the Lakers need to do to force a Game 5 back in Denver?
Needless to say, they need to get the offense going. Denver is an elite offensive team. In the playoffs thus far, they are averaging over 116 points per game, which is good for 2nd among all teams. However, they’re also playing elite defense, as they are giving up just under 108 points per game throughout the playoffs. Lastly, the Nuggets have been very efficient, hitting field goals at a 49.1% clip, good for 2nd among playoff teams. Clearly, the Lakers averaging 105 points per game isn’t going to cut it. We know the Lakers are an elite defensive team. They lead all playoff teams in blocks per game, thanks in large part to Anthony Davis. So while the defense has to be better, the Lakers need to get better on the offensive end if they want to extend their season. We know LeBron James and Davis will leave it all on the court tonight. D’Angelo Russell has been a complete nonfactor in this series. He has 21 points in the first 3 games of the series. He had 3 points in the Game 3! The Lakers need him to step up in the worst way. If he can produce the way he has in the first two series, the Lakers will have a chance to at least force Game 5.
The Lakers aren’t done yet, but they have a lot of work to do. No team has ever come back from down 3-0, and only 3 times have teams even forced a Game 7. However, if LeBron James is on your team, you have a shot.