The Los Angeles Lakers have sprinted out to a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Denver Nuggets. The two games could not have been more different, as the first game was dominated by the Lakers after the first quarter. They entered the 4th with a 103-79 lead and ultimately won by 12. In the second game, The Lakers surrendered a 16 pt lead in the 4th, before Anthony Davis hit a game-winning shot as the clock expired to propel the team to victory.
3 things stood out to me in each victory that ultimately will be very crucial to the Lakers taking a commanding 3-0 lead in this series.
LeBron’s passive-aggressive approach
In-game 2, LeBron James started on fire. He scored the Lakers first 12 points and finished the first half with 20 total. However, in the 2nd half, he scored a total of 6pts, going 1- for 6 from the field, 0 for 3 from 3 in 10 4th quarter minutes.
This absolutely cannot happen again. LeBron has to be assertive. If he puts pressure on the Nuggets defense, he will get to the free-throw line, help put the Nuggets in foul trouble and draw attention to him, making it easier for his shooters to get open shots.
Which leads me to my second key.
The Lakers shooters must continue to make the Nuggets respect them from deep. In-game 1 the Lakers shot 42 % from 3 and 36% in game 2. This keeps the Nuggets from crowding the paint and allows room for James, Davis, and Rajon Rondo to operate. Whether it’s to get to the rim or create for others, when the “others” make shots, it keeps the defense honest.
Make your free throws. I truly don’t believe that the Nuggets are going to be able to keep the Lakers off the free-throw line. For this exact reason, the Lakers need to take advantage of those opportunities. Getting Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray in foul trouble is nice, but if you don’t capitalize on those freebies then it’s not as effective.
The Nuggets are a good 3pt shooting team and a good free-throw shooting team. LeBron and AD must put pressure on their defense, create open shots for their shooters, and when they get to the stripe, throw down the majority of their freebies. If they do these three things well, along with continuing to be one of the best defenses in the league, they will be one win from playing for the title.