As a great wise mandrill once said, “it is time.” No more regular season games, no more doldrums of March, no more load management, the playoffs are here. The Denver Nuggets enter the postseason as the number two seed in the west and 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, up until last season, completely one sided in L.A.’s favor. Everything changed last year however with Denver unceremoniously sweeping the Lakers right out of the playoffs. Since then the Nuggets have tacked three more wins on their record against Los Angeles, while the Lakers continue to put up a goose egg in the victories column. No doubt they will be looking for revenge as the sweet taste of vengeance has eluded them thus far.

The Essentials:

Who: Denver Nuggets (0-0) vs Los Angeles Lakers (0-0)

When: 6:30PM MDT

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type.  ABC. League Pass for non-Nuggets market viewers. Show up at Ball Arena with a white Hanes tee and something about Road2Gold scribbled on it and they probably think you were already inside. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival blog: Silver Screen and Roll

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Lakers Advantage
PG Jamal Murray D’Angelo Russell Nuggets
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Austin Reaves Even
SF Michael Porter Jr. LeBron James Lakers
PF Aaron Gordon Rui Hacimura Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Anthony Davis Nuggets
Bench 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 – probable (back), LeBron James – probable (foot), Jalen Hood-Schifino – out (back), Cam Reddish – out (ankle), Jarred Vanderbilt – out (foot), Christian Wood – out (knee).

The Three Things

The thing to watch for:  LeBron James vs Aaron Gordon

Feb 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 against the Nuggets for four quarters their focus should remain on LeBron James. When Denver made the trade for Aaron Gordon back in 2021, without a doubt it was this matchup that was at the top of their mind in their decision making. That decision has paid off immensely for Denver as Gordon is tailor fit to defend a player of LeBron’s caliber and physical size. That doesn’t mean AG stops LeBron completely, no one can after all, but he might be the one to make James work harder than any other defender in the league. We saw how that takes it’s toll over the course of a series last season when LeBron came out in game 4 as a man on a mission in the first half, but simply had nothing left to give by the time the second half came along. If Gordon continues to make LeBron work for every single shot he gets then the Lakers will find themselves looking for answers at the end of games once again.

The thing to remember: A King Has His Reign

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

I expect Christian Braun to slide into the bench scorer role in the playoffs much like Bruce Brown did last season. Brown averaged 12 points a game over the playoffs last year & Braun (confused yet?) averaged 7.3 points per game this season. He’s also scored seven or more points in seven of his last ten games. If Christian ends up scoring under seven points tonight that might be bad news for Denver but I’m an eternal optimist (especially when it’s even money) so I think he gets it done tonight.