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Nuggets/Lakers in the WCF; A Quick History

The Denver Nuggets have faced the Los Angeles Lakers 3 times in the Western Conference Finals and beginning this week, they’ll see the legendary franchise yet again for a chance to advance to their first NBA Finals in their history. Unlike times before where the Lakers were the favorite and team of destiny, if you will, the 2022/23 Nuggets earned a 1 seed in the West, knocked off a mid-season favorite in the Phoenix Suns and have one thing on their mind. A championship. This time, it’s different.

When Alex English and company took on LA in 1985 they were faced with what would turnout to be one of the best dynasties in NBA history. Lead by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the Showtime Lakers were a force to be reckoned with. However, the Nuggets were no slouches. Along with one of the greatest Nuggets of all time in English, Dan Issel and Calvin Natt helped Denver win 52 games and finish 1st in the Midwest division, but they were up against an insurmountable task. English averaged nearly 28 points per game that season and was having a monster performance in the series before suffering several fractures in his hand in game 4, forcing him to miss game 5 of the conference finals. The Nuggets were a really good team, but the Lakers were entering legendary status. LA would go on to win the series 4-1 and would eventually win another NBA Championship shortly thereafter.

The Nuggets would find their way back into the WCF nearly 25 years later where they would yet again face a team of destiny. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers were on a quest to win their 4th of the eventual 5 NBA titles in the Bryant era. Again, we saw a Nuggets team that was very good with arguably a top 3 Nugget of all time in Carmelo Anthony and hometown hero, Chauncey Billups but like we witnessed in ’85, Denver ran into the stuff of legend and although it was at one point a 2-2 series, the Mile High crew couldn’t overcome one of the best players (Kobe) and perhaps coaches (Phil Jackson) in NBA history. Add in a few miscues as far as in-bounding the ball and the Nuggets ultimately lost the series 4-2. LA would go onto to win the next two NBA titles.

During the COVID pandemic in the 2020 season, the Nuggets were a team on the rise. However, the sports world, along with everything else, was flipped upside down and the regular season would be put on hold and eventually moved to the Walt Disney resort in Florida. The eventual 2 time MVP Nikola Jokic and a smoking hot Jamal Murray helped the Nuggets overcome 2 3-1 deficits, a feat that had never happened before in NBA history. However, LeBron James and the Lakers proved to be too much and won the series 4-1. Even though that Lakers team won’t go down as one of many great Lakers runs, any championship team with LeBron involved is historic. LA survived the bubble and won their 17th NBA title.

This time, it’s Denver who will be looking to begin their dynasty as they face a Lakers team that backed into the playoffs as a play-in team. Nikola Jokic continues to dazzle even his biggest critics, especially after dismantling Kevin Durant and Devin Booker’s Phoenix Suns 4-2 in the Western Conference Semi-finals. Unlike last season and the 4-0 exit to the Suns the season before that, the 2-time MVP has the horses to run with him. Murray hasn’t exactly shown the dominating play that he displayed in the bubble, but he’s shown why Denver missed him so much the last 2 post-seasons. Michael Porter Jr. was out last year as well, making the Joker’s task of creating some noise in the playoffs even more difficult. This time, Denver is the favorite. This time, Denver has the best player in the NBA. Every time the Nuggets assembled a great team, there was a Lakers team even greater. This time it’s different.

Here more on the history of this series on The Hull Show (11a-2p on KFKA). Listen here for today’s chat

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