Lakers enter Western Conference Finals as underdogs against Denver Nuggets

When the Los Angeles Lakers began the 2022-23 NBA season with a 2-10 record, including an opening night loss to their hallway rivals, a playoff run felt like a pipe dream. 

Now, they continue to exceed expectations and will face Nikola Jokic and the No.1 seed Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals beginning Tuesday night – entering the series as the underdogs

Despite being one of the most successful franchises in the league's history, the Lakers are arguably the Cinderella story of the season. 

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Last week, they knocked the Golden State Warriors, the defending champions, out of the playoffs. As fans may recall, the Lakers faced the Warriors on opening night back on Oct. 18, 2022. To top it off, they were forced to watch the Warriors' ring ceremony that evening. It was a grain of salt in the wound for Laker Nation after the men in purple and gold failed to qualify for playoff contention that season. 

Andre Iguodala #9, Stephen Curry #30, Draymond Green #23, and Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors pose with their championship rings in front of a championship banner during a ceremony prior to the game against the Los Angeles Lakers/ (Pho (Getty Images)

It was a sour start, but it’s been a sweet ride for the Lakers since the All-Star break after the front office took care of business and improved its roster to better complement stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. 

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This series is all about the big men and Davis will continue to serve a crucial role to slow down Jokic. 

The battle for "Best of the West" is set to be a thrill.

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers takes a shot against Nikola Jokic. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The two teams faced each other four times during the regular season and are tied at 2 wins a piece.  

Denver has never won an NBA championship or even made an appearance in the Finals. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers have 17 titles, having won as recently as 2020.

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So, what do the experts think?

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets defends Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

Well, it’s predicted to be a longer series of at least six games. Out of 17 NBA experts at ESPN, including Tim Legler, Ramona Shelburne, and Marc Spears, 11 of them expect the Nuggets to win the series

Keep in mind, only two of them predicted the Lakers would beat the Warriors in Round 2. 

Even at 38 years old, a team with "King James," the league's all-time leading scorer and four-time champion, is not to be counted out. 

The action begins Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. PT on ESPN.


  • Game 1: Tuesday, May 16 -- Lakers at Nuggets – 5:30 p.m. PT-- ESPN
  • Game 2: Thursday, May 18 -- Lakers at Nuggets -- 5:30 p.m. PT -- ESPN
  • Game 3: Saturday, May 20 – Nuggets at Lakers -- 5:30 p.m. PT -- ABC
  • Game 4: Monday, May 22  -- Nuggets at Lakers -- 5:30 p.m. PT -- ESPN
  • *Game 5 (if necessary) -- Wednesday, May 24 -- Lakers at Nuggets-- 5:30 p.m. PT -- ESPN
  • *Game 6 (if necessary) -- Friday, May 26 -- Nuggets at Lakers – 5:30 p.m. – ESPN
  • *Game 7 (if necessary) -- Sunday, May 28 -- Lakers at Nuggets – 5:30 p.m. PT -- ESPN