Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets: Key matchups to watch

(Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

The battle of LA between the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers has been built up all season as the matchup of the season and going into the past weekend the two sides looked to be on a collision course. Instead, the Denver Nuggets had something to say about it and came back from 3-1 for the second consecutive series (nobody in NBA history has done this).

The Nuggets bring a load of issues and problems, and the Lakers are going to have their hands full all series long. Here are some matchups to look for:

Anthony Davis vs Nikola Jokic

Both of these big men have been dominating respectively in each series and are the best big man in the game today. Anthony Davis comes into this series averaging 27.6ppg/10.9rpg/4.1apg/1.1stls/1.1blks on a 65% true shooting percentage compare. Nikola Jokic is averaging 25.4ppg/10.8rpg/6.0apg on a 61% true shooting percentage.

Those numbers are both monstrous and these two are like titans fighting among us. AD has shown the ability to defend Jokic better than most defenders and the Lakers will hope he can do it for four straight games.

During the regular season, in crunch time moments, AD played the five and showed the capabilities of stopping both Murray and Jokic respectively. This is something to look forward to if Vogel continues to commit to AD at the five.

Coach Vogel vs Coach Malone

Vogel has been proactive with adjustments and has unleashed different defensive formations to limit the highest-scoring team in the bubble (Portland Trail Blazers) and the highest shooting three-point team (Houston Rockets).

Both of the previous coaches Vogel faced allowed him to hold the trump card with the adjustments that changed the series but Malone has shown to be one the better coaches in the league.

This will be the most interesting matchup in the series with both teams having difference makers on the bench. Some key questions that will need to be answered are if Vogel will commit to AD at the five and if Malone will trust Michael Porter Jr if LeBron James goes matchup hunting.

LeBron James pushing the pace

All year, the Los Angeles Lakers were at their best forcing turnovers and pushing the pace. Their leader, LeBron James, controlled the tempo of this Laker team all season and now as the postseason dwindles down, James continues to show his dominance on the court.

Coming into the Western Conference Finals, LeBron James is averaging 26.6ppg/10.3rpg/8.8apg/1.6stls/1.1blks. LBJ has been pushing all the right buttons so far as the Lakers de facto point guard and will need to continue vs this Nuggets side.

Look for James to attack the rim early and often by pushing the pace even after Denver makes field goals. Making Jokic run will eventually tire the big man out and it’s one strategy LeBron will try during this series.

Alex Caruso guarding Jamal Murray 

Caruso has grown in every way but the one main attribute in defense has stayed consistent. Murray presents the same issues that Harden, Dame and to a lesser extent CJ McCollum in that they are all guards who have range from the moment they step in from the half-court line but can also finish with both hands.

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Caruso has stepped up to the task so far with excellent defense displays in limiting Dame, CJ and Harden to inefficient nights, with the help of his teammates of course. Let’s see if Caruso can continue his trend of being the Los Angeles Lakers premier guard defender when going up against the hottest player in the bubble.