LeBron James isn’t taking the Denver Nuggets lightly.
The No. 1-seeded Los Angeles Lakers will begin the Western Conference finals Friday against the third-seeded Nuggets, who escaped 3-1 deficits twice this postseason. Their latest success came against the Los Angeles Clippers, early favorites alongside the Lakers for the conference title.
James gives ‘out of this world’ respect to Nuggets
James, recently named to the All-NBA team for a record 16th time, told reporters after practice on Thursday he has high respect for the Nuggets.
“Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team," James said when asked about Denver, via ESPN. “It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. That's how we're going into this series: understanding what they're capable of, where they stand.”
Teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit a total of 13 times in NBA history. This year’s Nuggets now have two of those after defeating the No. 6-seed Utah Jazz in the first round and the Clippers in the semifinals.
James also very famously came back from down 3-1 while with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.
James on not playing an all-L.A. final
From the onset of the season it was looking like an all-Los Angeles Western Conference final series. Every “Battle of L.A.” matchup got premiere treatment by fans and media this season. Even going into the restart, most places had the Clippers getting at least to this point, with some picking them as overall champions.
Then the collapse happened. For James’ part, he didn’t give anything away about his desired matchups.
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“I don't have a comment about it really,” James said. “I was just sitting back and watching the game from a fan's perspective, seeing big shots be made, big plays being made, missed shots, things of that nature. I was also [watching] as a scout, scouting both teams at the same time.”
Anthony Davis felt similarly, via ESPN.
“We aren't focused on any other team but the Lakers. That's kind of been us, our whole thing the entire season. We focused on our own team,” Davis said. “Our focus isn't on the Clippers or the 'Battle of L.A.' It's more so what can we do to finish our season strong.”
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