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First Round, Game 1 Preview

Photo/David Zalubowski/Associated Press

It’s Game 1 of the first round in the Western Conference Playoffs, as the Lakers travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets in a rematch of last year’s WCF – in which the Lakers were swept. On the injury report, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are probable, while Cam Reddish, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Christian Wood all remain out.

Clutch Time Execution

In the last 8 meetings between these two teams there seems to be one factor that always manages to lift Denver over the Lakers: their clutch time execution, especially on the offensive end. The games were highly competitive, but LA just couldn’t overcome Denver in the decisive moments.

The two-man game of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic really hurt Los Angeles. That has to change this time around if they want to have any chance of winning the series. Although he’s only started playing recently due to his knee injury this season, we could see the true value in Gabe Vincent in this series. His tenacious defense could help deal with Jamal Murray, who the Lakers had no answer for in last year’s playoffs. Vincent is also a shooting threat on the offensive end, so it is difficult to play him off the floor. If Vincent can play defense similar to what he showcased in Miami last postseason, he could be an essential player for the Lakers in this series.

D’Angelo Russell

It is no secret that D’Angelo Russell really struggled against Denver in the Western Conference Finals last year. At times he was played off the floor because of absent defense when his shot was not falling. This year – in particular the second half of the season – Russell has been playing with confidence and providing elite playmaking and shooting for the Lakers. If the shooting can translate to this series, Russell will be decisive.

Denver will surely try and go at him on the defensive end, so he will need to hold his own to make sure he is on the floor when it matters most. Can the Lakers break the Denver curse and beat them after losing their last 8? Tip off is at 8:30 EST.

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