Darvin Ham: "We like our chances" on the matchup between the Lakers and Nuggets

Tuesday, 23 April 2024 at 22:42
darvin ham lebron james lakers imago1038815879h
With the season ending on Sunday, April 14th all the seedings were finalized for the playoffs. However, before we could get to the actual playoffs their was the play-in tournament. The Los Angeles Lakers for the third time in four years ended up in the play-in tournament again.  
They were the 8th seed matched up against the 7th seeded New Orleans Pelicans. A matchup they have dominated this year winning three of the four matchups against them. This time it was a little closer than people thought. However, even with Zion Williamson's 40 point effort (Left the game late in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury) they were still able to get the job done winning on the road 110-106.  
Since they won that game, it made them the 7th seed in the playoffs in which they will be taking on the defending world champs in the Denver Nuggets. The team that they met up against last year in the Western Conference Finals and got swept against. The Lakers also have lost the last eight matchups against the Nuggets, including this year going 0-3 against them. Even with all of that, after their win against the Pelicans, the Lakers head coach Darvin Ham remains confident with their chances against the Nuggets.  
"It's back to 0-0. Obviously, they've had a ton of success against our ball club but, there's always a new day. … We’ll go out there and give it our best shot. That’s all we can do. We feel comfortable, though. … We like our chances."
Now, this can obviously just be a coach saying he has confidence because he is the coach of the team. However, we are going to look at some reasons as to why he might have some validity in saying this.  

Anthony Davis and LeBron James's Health  

Last year, when these two teams met up both LeBron and Davis were either playing through injuries or were gassed in the fourth quarter, especially LeBron. This year and right now they are both very healthy and playing their best basketball in the month of April. Both Davis and LeBron have played over 70 games this year and are going to be healthy and well rested when they play each other.

More rest between games 

LeBron James is almost 40 years old and with how good he has been playing this year, their are moments were he looks gassed out their and tired. Especially last year against the Nuggets in the fourth quarter and in closing minutes of the game he was tired and looked old.
However, instead of playing every other day like you do in the conference finals. In the 1st round you get the most rest or space in between games. So, for LeBron who is 39 years old he should be rested and ready to go every game they play against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. Where in the fourth quarter he might not be as tired or looked gassed when they need LeBron to close out the game.

The Importance of D'Angelo Russell and other role Players  

Last year, when the Lakers played the Nuggets their role players especially Russell did not show up and play well. Their were even some moments in the series were Russell was almost unplayable, that is how bad it had gotten.
Russell who is having one of his better statistical seasons this year and is playing really well down the stretch. If the Lakers hope to make this a competitive series or even have a chance of beating the Nuggets, they are going to need guys like Russell, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura to step up and play well.  
Now, with all that being said with LeBron and Davis being healthy, with them having more rest in-between games, and with their role players hopefully playing better. Will they beat the Nuggets this time around in a seven game series? The answer to that is probably not, however because of the reasons we mentioned above will they get swept again, probably not.
If the Lakers wanted any chance of beating the Nuggets in the playoffs, their best chance might be earlier rather than later. It is definitely going to be a more competitive series than last year and will definitely be one of the better series to watch in the first round of the playoffs.