With the NBA postseason just over two weeks away, the Western Conference playoff picture looks murkier than ever. As a result, there’s a seemingly endless list of first round matchup possibilities, including one between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
A seven-game series between the defending champs and the shorthanded Nuggets would produce a plethora of interesting storylines. Denver continues to climb the conference standings thanks to MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic even in the absence of the team’s second best player, Jamal Murray. Meanwhile, the Lakers have battled injury after injury and seem to be quite literally limping towards the postseason.
Each team has just seven games to go, but plenty can happen over the final two weeks. Even if the Lakers and Nuggets get paired up, Jokic doesn’t seem to mind.
“If it happens, it happens,” Jokic said of a match-up against the 2020 NBA champs, per The Denver Post’s Mike Singer. “Why not? If we want to win it, we need to play with the best. We are not going to try to fix anything,”
Nikola Jokic on whether he wants to play the Lakers in the first round:
“If it happens, it happens. Why not? If we want to win it, we need to play with the best. We are not going to try to fix anything.”
— Mike Singer (@msinger) May 4, 2021
Jokic’s mindset reveals just another reason why he’s been in the MVP conversation all year long. Behind the 25-year-old’s steady play, the Nuggets are the No. 3 seed in a deep Western Conference and have gone 8-2 in their last 10, without Murray running the offense. Jokic has made all 65 of his starts in a year where almost every star has missed games and is averaging 26.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 8.5 assists with 56/41/86 shooting percentage splits.
If the season ended today, the Nuggets (43-22) would take on the No. 6 seeded Mavericks. However, the Lakers sit just a half game ahead of Dallas and have a difficult final stretch of games. LeBron James also sat out of Monday night’s 93-89 win over Denver with lingering soreness from his late March high ankle sprain and it’s unclear when he’ll return.
The final seven games of the regular season will be crucial for seeding in the Western Conference, but Jokic and the Nuggets look to be headed into the postseason with plenty of confidence.