May 16, 2023 - Sports

Nuggets eye their first Western Conference title

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic defends LeBron James on Jan. 15, 2022, at Denver's Ball Arena. Photo: Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets will have to go through The King to get the Western Conference crown.

State of play: The Western Conference Finals (WCF) begin Tuesday, with the No. 1-seeded Nuggets taking on the 7th-seeded Los Angeles Lakers at Ball Arena.

Catch up quick: The Nuggets thrashed the Phoenix Suns in Game Six to earn a berth in the conference finals after easily dispatching the Minnesota Timberwolves in round one.

  • The Lakers eliminated the defending champion Golden State Warriors after beating the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.

The intrigue: This WCF matchup is a repeat of 2020, the last time the Nuggets made it this far. However, that series was played in the NBA bubble sans fans due to the pandemic.

  • This time around, the Nuggets have a real home-court advantage.

Between the lines: The series pits the most dominant player of his generation, LeBron James β€” aka King James β€” against Nikola Jokic, who has won two of the past three regular-season MVP awards.

  • Jokic and James are the stars, but not far behind are the Lakers' Anthony Davis and the Nuggets' Jamal Murray. The series will largely hinge on how those four perform.
  • "The Nuggets hold an edge in their motivation. They seem very confident ...," an anonymous scout told the Los Angeles Times.

What they're saying: "We come in with the utmost respect for this team," James told reporters on Monday.

Zoom out: These two franchises have drastically different championship histories.

  • The Lakers have 17 titles. The Nuggets, meanwhile, are one of six NBA teams to never make a Finals appearance.

By the numbers: The Nuggets are favored in their opening game by 5.5 points, per Caesars Sportsbook.

  • Denver has the second-best odds (+240) to win the NBA title, according to BetMGM. The Boston Celtics (+110) are the current betting favorites.

How to watch: The game tips off at 6:30pm MT on ESPN.


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