The Los Angeles Lakers turned the 2022-23 season around and made it much further than anyone expected, reaching the Western Conference Finals. Despite the team’s success and strong play, though, Los Angeles was unable to even take a game against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
That series was as competitive as a four-game sweep could be as the Lakers were in every single game. Denver simply executed more in crunch time and it was the difference in the series. The Nuggets went on to the NBA Finals and the Lakers went back to the drawing board.
It seemed like beating the Lakers was the NBA Finals for the Nuggets, though. Head coach Michael Malone brought up the Lakers at every turn even after winning the NBA Finals, throwing shade at the team and LeBron James specifically.
This has created a fun Lakers-Nuggets rivalry that is going to be reignited on Opening Night. If the matchup wasn’t hot enough already, former Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had to add some heat himself. KCP talked about how much he loves his former teammates and that they are brothers, but that he and the Nuggets still needed to give them a “butt whipping”.
Lakers-Nuggets rivalry gets hotter thanks to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
It was all in good fun but LeBron, Anthony Davis and the entire roster are taking quotes like this personally and will definitely use this as motivation not just for the first game of the season but for the entire rest of the season as well.
Denver has given Los Angeles a lot of bulletin board material this offseason and that was the wrong thing to do. While they are the team to beat in the NBA and deserve that respect, the last thing Denver needed to do was upset the team that has the best chance of dethroning them in the Western Conference.
Plus, there are no guarantees that the Nuggets could put together another dominant series like that against the Lakers. Nikola Jokic is the best player on the planet and will continue to thrive while Jamal Murray is an all-star-caliber guard and will continue to play like that.
But the tipping point of the series was role players like KCP and Bruce Brown having one of the best postseason series of their respective careers. Brown is no longer on the Nuggets and as much as Lakers fans love KCP, they know that he is not necessarily the most consistent.
It is all in good fun now but if these two teams meet up in the NBA Playoffs it will be the Lake Show that enters the series desperately looking to hand out a butt-whipping.