West Finals

The Lakers will be decided underdogs when they meet the Nuggets in the West Finals. It isn’t simply that they will begin the series on the road, or that they face the holders of the best record in the conference, or that they’re up against competition led by singular talent Nikola Jokic, Most Valuable Player awardee in 2021 and 2022 and runner-up this year. It’s that they will need to keep banking on relatively overworked superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis in order to present a bona fide challenge.

True, the Lakers made small work of the Nuggets the last time they met in the West Finals. On the other hand, their current iterations are nowhere near their bubble versions. In the three years since, they both had significant player movements. Now, all that remains are James and Davis for the purple and gold, and Jokic and fellow starters Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. for the blue and yellow. And, as currently constructed, the latter boast of the increased familiarity conventional wisdom has deemed crucial in pressure-packed situations.

That said, recent memory has shown the Lakers’ capacity to overcome perceived handicaps. Not for nothing did they climb up from having a 0.3% chance of making the postseason to claiming the seventh seed through a play-in victory, and then to winning first- and semifinal-round set-tos against supposedly superior opposition to set up a rematch with the Nuggets. Not that they need any validation of their 2020 championship. Rather, they’re on a mission to once again show up oddsmakers.

Bottom line, the Lakers are no pushovers. While the Nuggets will provide stiffer competition vis-a-vis the Grizzlies and Warriors, they have become hardened by their experience. If nothing else, they possess the defensive fortitude to prevail. Whether they ultimately do depends on how much they believe in themselves, and how they are able to overachieve as a result.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, oprerations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.