Lakers have new secret weapon to dethrone Nuggets in NBA Playoffs

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets
Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets / Justin Tafoya/GettyImages

After being swept in the 2023 Western Conference Finals by the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Lakers now get a chance to test themselves much earlier in the NBA Playoffs with a first-round matchup against the same Nuggets team.

Los Angeles defeated the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night to officially clinch the seventh seed and a date with the Nuggets in the first round. There was some chatter around the Lakers losing the first play-in game to try and create a much easier path as the eighth seed but that was a theory that the team obviously wasn't buying into.

The Nuggets were the last team that Lakers fans wanted to see in the first round but alas, there is no other path to the NBA Finals than to go through Denver. Los Angeles will definitely be the underdog in the series but this year, the Lakers have a trick up their sleeve that they didn't have last year: Gabe Vincent.

Gabe Vincent is the Lakers' key to dethroning the Nuggets

Gabe Vincent's first season with the Los Angeles Lakers has not gone as planned. Vincent was injured for most of the regular season and upon returning he was not playing up to the level that fans were hoping for. We here at Lake Show Life have not been shy about dissecting the signing, so we are all willing to eat crow if (or when) he turns it around.

It looks like Vincent started his turnaround on Tuesday against the Pelicans. This was easily the best game that Vincent has had since joining the Lakers as his impact was felt on both ends on the floor. That is exactly what the Lakers need to change the dynamic of this series against the Nuggets.

The one thing the Lakers did not have last season that they now have this year is a guard to throw at Jamal Murray defensively. Murray absolutely torched the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals a year ago as the Lakers didn't have a single good defensive guard to stop him.

That changes with Vincent. Murray still put together a fine NBA Finals showing against the Miami Heat last year but Vincent had a lot more success against Murray than anyone on the Lakers had. With Anthony Davis behind him in LA, there is a situation in which Vincent can be the Murray-stopper that the Lakers need.

There is also the entire "playoff Vincent" scenario that could play out. Some players simply elevate their games in the postseason and it can be the difference between winning the NBA Championship and getting bounced in the first round.

Heck, playoff Rondo showing up in the 2020 NBA Playoffs is a big reason why the Lakers won the title that year. Rondo legitimately was the Lakers' third-best player during that playoff run and without him the team may not have won it all.

If Vincent can elevate his game in the same way (which he literally did last year for the Heat) then the Lakers are a much tougher team to beat than the team that got swept in last year's Western Conference Finals.

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