Lakers hit rewind in video room to prepare to face Nuggets

The last time they met in the playoffs, the Lakers and Denver Nuggets were inside the NBA’s pandemic bubble in 2020 in Orlando, Fla. The Lakers won the Western Conference finals 4 games to 1, with only a handful of family and team executives watching from the stands.

Some of the details were lost in the fog of time, so LeBron James and Anthony Davis said they might go back and watch the series they used as a springboard to the Lakers’ 17th NBA championship to see if a video session would refresh their memories going into this conference finals.

“They’re a different team, we’re a different team,” Davis said after the Lakers clinched a return to the conference finals Friday. “I think the biggest thing for us was having Dwight (Howard) kind of disrupt (Nikola) Jokic a little bit. He’s, obviously, one of two guys who get them going, him and Jamal Murray.”

The Lakers won’t have the services of Howard, who played for a team in Taiwan this season, as they try for an eighth consecutive playoff victory over the Nuggets. The Lakers defeated Denver in the playoffs in 1979, 1985, 1987, 2008, 2009 and 2012 in addition to 2020.

“Me and LeBron talked about it earlier, about going back and watching that series to kind of see what we did to kind of figure out how we can best match up and get victories over them,” Davis said. “So, we’ll go back and look at it. I think the biggest key will be making the ball find the guys we want it to find, just play off of that.”

There was one other thing that stood out about that series even if Davis tried to dismiss its importance to this matchup. Davis made a 3-point jump shot over the outstretched arm of Jokic at the Game 2 buzzer to give the Lakers a 103-102 victory and a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Nuggets.

“That was one game, though,” he said. “Hopefully, I get another one this series.”


Lakers coach Darvin Ham kept his starting lineup intact for the first 11 games of the playoffs, but he made a change for the decisive Game 6 victory Friday over the Golden State Warriors. He inserted guard Dennis Schroder into the lineup in favor of small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

Schroder had three points on 1-for-6 shooting plus two rebounds and five assists before he was thrown out of the game after receiving his second technical foul midway through the third quarter. He hounded the Warriors’ Steph Curry from the opening tip and generally made a pest of himself.

“Dennis came in and set an unbelievable tone defensively,” Ham said. “He’s relentless. He’s the best guy to defend (Curry) on the team, and not just on the team, but probably one of the best in the league at defending Steph. So, we wanted to set that tone early, that defensive mindset of being aggressive and feisty, that no-quit mentality. And he got us off to a great start.”

It remained to be determined whether Ham would stick with Schroder over Vanderbilt for the Lakers’ series against the Nuggets, with matchups dictating their defensive plans. The Lakers didn’t practice Saturday or Sunday, but are scheduled to practice Monday, after their arrival in Denver.

Game 1 is Tuesday.


The Lakers are giving up an average of 102.5 points during their eight victories so far in the playoffs, including the 111 points they gave up during their overtime victory in Game 4 over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. They are giving up 116.6 points in their four playoff defeats so far.

“Great defense is the best offense,” Ham said.

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