A week ago, things seemed to be lining up perfectly for the all-LA matchup everyone wanted to see in the Western Conference finals. The Lakers and Clippers were cruising with 3-1 leads in their second-round series.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers did their part, finishing off the Houston Rockets in five games.
But the Denver Nuggets crashed the party, stunning the Clippers in a Game 7 to complete their second consecutive 3-1 series comeback. Instead of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Lakers will face a different star duo in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
The Lakers enter as the heavy favorite to reach the NBA Finals, but they can’t overlook the Nuggets. Jokic and company are feeling supremely confident after they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit twice in the same postseason.
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“We are just not accepting that somebody’s better than us,” Jokic said after beating the Clippers.
James and Davis have the Lakers in the conference finals for the first time since 2010, the last time the franchise won a title. The Nuggets, who have never won an NBA title, are in the West finals for the first time since 2009.
So, who will move on to play for a championship? USA TODAY Sports’ NBA team makes its picks for the Western Conference finals:
Mark Medina: Lakers in 6. The Nuggets will still continue progressing with their underdog story. But they will also run into a brick wall that is James and Davis. The Lakers and Nuggets will play in a competitive series, no doubt. Still, the Lakers’ star power will be too much to handle. Unlike the Clippers, the Lakers also will not take the Nuggets lightly.