Preview: Denver Nuggets open 2024 playoffs with Los Angeles Lakers

As a great wise mandrill once said, “It’s time.” No more regular season games, no more March doldrums, no more load management, the playoffs are here. The Denver Nuggets enter the postseason as the number two team in the West and have their sights set on repeating as NBA champions. Their first opponent? None other than the hated Los Angeles Lakers. The history between the Nuggets and Lakers in the playoffs is long and completely one-sided in LA’s favor until last season. However, everything changed last year when Denver unceremoniously swept the Lakers out of the playoffs. Since then, the Nuggets have added three more wins against Los Angeles, while the Lakers continue to put up a goose egg in the win column. They will no doubt be looking for revenge as the sweet taste of revenge has eluded them thus far.

The essentials:

WHO: Denver Nuggets (0-0) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (0-0)

When: 6:30 PM MDT

Where: The can. Denver, CO

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not tolerate piracy…unless it is a romanticized 18th century type. ABC. League Pass for non-Nuggets market viewers. Show up to Ball Arena with a white Hanes T-shirt and something about Road2Gold scrawled on it and they’ll probably think you were already in. 92.5 FM KKSE Height Sports Radio.

Rival blog: Silver screen and scroll

The Matchup

Position Gold nuggets Lakers Benefit
PG Jamal Murray D’Angelo Russell Gold nuggets
S.G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Austin Reaves Even
SF Michael Porter Jr. Le Bron James Lakers
P.F Aaron Gordon Rui Hacimura Gold nuggets
c Nikola Jokic Anthony Davis Gold nuggets
Bank Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Justin Holiday Spencer Dinwiddie, Gabe Vincent, Jaxon Hayes, Taurean Prince Even

Injury report: Vlatko Cancar – out (knee); Anthony Davis – likely (back), LeBron James – likely (foot), Jalen Hood-Schifino – out (back), Cam Reddish – out (ankle), Jarred Vanderbilt – out (foot), Christian Wood – out (knee).

The three things

What to pay attention to: LeBron James vs. Aaron Gordon

February 8, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) blocks Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the fourth quarter at Arena. Mandatory credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Until Anthony Davis proves he can play at a high level for four quarters against the Nuggets, the focus should remain on LeBron James. When Denver made the trade for Aaron Gordon in 2021, it was undoubtedly this fit that was at the top of their minds in their decision-making. That decision paid huge dividends for Denver, as Gordon is tailor-made to defend a player of LeBron’s caliber and physical size. That doesn’t mean AG is completely blocking LeBron; After all, no one can, but he could be the one who makes James work harder than any other defenseman in the league. We saw how that takes its toll over the course of a series last season, when LeBron came out in Game 4 looking like a man on a mission in the first half, but simply had nothing left to give by the time the second half rolled around. If Gordon continues to make LeBron work for every shot he gets, the Lakers will once again be looking for answers at the end of games.

What to remember: A king has his government

The thing to bet: Christian Braun more than 6.5 points (+100)

I expect Christian Braun to fill the bench scorer role in the playoffs, much like Bruce Brown did last season. Brown averaged 12 points per game during the playoffs last year and Braun (confused yet?) is averaging 7.3 points per game this season. He also scored seven or more points in seven of his last ten games. If Christian scores less than seven points tonight, it could be bad news for Denver, but I’m an eternal optimist (especially when it comes to even money) so I think he can get it done tonight.