Now that the L.A. Lakers have been knocked from the Conference Finals, it’s time for an autopsy of their best and worst moments. Amidst a chaotic Western Conference, the Lakers almost didn’t make the cut but made a roaring comeback, only to be stopped by the team that made the most upset: the near-unstoppable Denver Nuggets.
The Regular Season
Before we delve into the specifics of the regular season, it’s important to note the games aren’t over yet. The NBA Finals will be decided in mid-June, marking one of the largest and most popular sporting events of the year. With that comes very high engagement with the betting odds given for the event. Enjoyed all over the world, tools like the odds converter are available to translate between decimal, fractional and moneyline odds to find the best-implied probability no matter which metric audiences are familiar with.
By now, fans following the NBA are very familiar with the Lakers and their rollercoaster season this year. It started out rocky from the start, as they were the last team to secure a win after taking a beating in October. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were the franchise’s best assets, beating the Denver Nuggets on October 30th.
More wins followed but they were overshadowed by stinging losses to the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns, who had their own struggles with the Nuggets. They started to hit their stride in 2023, particularly March as they went 10-5 in game wins, only for LeBron’s ankle injury to stir up a lot of gossip about the Lakers losing out this season. It wasn’t totally incorrect, as the Lakers settled at 7th seed.
The WC Play-In Tournament
As 7th seed, the Lakers found themselves in the play-in tournament alongside the Minnesota Timberwolves, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder beat the Pelicans, knocking them out. The Lakers beat the Timberwolves for a ticket to the final seed game while the Timberwolves beat the Thunder to stay in and knock them out. So, L.A. had to beat Minnesota.
It wasn’t always a sure thing, especially when Anthony Davis’ fouled in the game. Nothing came easy in this season, so why would the play-in be any different? It was closer than anybody was comfortable with, 108-102. Minnesota led for most of the game until that agonising six-minute stretch in the fourth. Minnesota fumbled, with 11 shots missed in a row in overtime, and LA used it to claw their way back.
The Conference Finals
For a moment, it looked like the Lakers’ biggest hurdles were behind them. The Wolves had been fended off, the Nuggets had beaten the Suns, and they carved up the Memphis Grizzlies in 4-2 games. Rui Hachimura was a big part of that, in a morale-boosting first playoff game where they went 128-112. From there, LeBron and Davis put the Golden State Warriors down with the same rhythm – 4 games against 2, losing only the second and the fifth.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the Nuggets had a superweapon in Nikola Jokić. Commentator Rob Perez nailed Jokić’s unique, terrifying brand of unstoppable in this hilarious tweet that then came true. He’s not the most graceful out on the court but it’s clear he gets the job done, as the Nuggets chased the Lakers away in four games.
Funny tweets aside, it comes as a big upset for Lakers fans. In the context of the whole season and what a battle it was to get to the Conference Finals, Lakers fans should take a step back and see that the Lakers did well despite a lot going against them. If this had been a bad year for the Nuggets, they may even have hit the Finals.