LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers coasted to a 122-101 win against the Golden State Warriors on Friday. This sealed the series in six games, pitting the Lakers against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.
Early NBA lines list Los Angeles as the underdog in the series (+120). The Lakers flourished in the underdog role against the Warriors. Will they do it again?
After a 2-10 start to the regular season, Los Angeles is loving life. The Lakers are the first team in 18 years to start 2-10 and finish the season above .500. They also joined the 1977-78 Seattle Supersonics as the second team in NBA history to make the conference finals following a 2-10 start.
Will the Lakers’ historic run continue? Let’s look at how Los Angeles got here and its chance of winning it all.
Luxury of a Deep Lineup
The dramatic turnaround began with excellent moves at the trade deadline, led by the acquisitions of guard D’Angelo Russell and forwards Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura. Even with the strong deadline, few NBA expert picks called this turnaround.
Russell, Vanderbilt and Hachimura have all played vital roles throughout the playoffs. The departures of Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley also opened minutes for other pieces. Guard Austin Reeves has been featured in the starting lineup and is averaging 15.4 points in the postseason. He was excellent in Game 6 against the Warriors with 23 points, six assists and five rebounds.
This is what makes the Lakers so dangerous. The rotation is incredibly deep and different players are stepping up every game. Hachimura was exceptional in the first round against the Memphis Grizzlies with three games of 16 points or more. Vanderbilt was utilized as a defensive stopper against the Grizzlies. Guard Lonnie Walker IV is the latest piece to rise to the occasion. Game 4 against the Warriors became known as the “Lonnie Walker Game” after he dropped 15 points in the fourth quarter. No NBA predictions saw this coming.
The Lonnie Walker IV Game. pic.twitter.com/1J9ub7VP3r
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 10, 2023
Keep this in mind for the upcoming Western Conference finals. Backing Los Angeles’ bench in NBA betting could lead to big profits.
Role Players Lighten LeBron’s Load
James and Anthony Davis remain the clear leaders. They have performed well in the postseason. Of course, James and Davis draw the bulk of attention from opposing teams. When the Lakers’ role players are producing at a high level in clutch moments, opposing teams can only tip their caps.
This is also lightening the load on James. Of course, the 38-year-old superstar can no longer dominate the entire series like in his younger days. This deep rotation gives James the luxury of picking his spots. He has been passive at times, like his 11-shot attempts in Game 3 against the Warriors. But when the moment matters most, James has dominated. His best performance of the playoffs came in the closing game against Golden State with 30 points, nine assists and nine rebounds while shooting 10 of 14 from the field.
That no look dish is TOUGHHHH pic.twitter.com/KjJeN8e35n
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 13, 2023
Los Angeles has formed the perfect team around an aging James. This could be his last hoorah to build on his legacy. James set another record following the series win over the Warriors. He now holds the all-time record for most series wins at 41. But the ultimate goal is winning another ring. Are the Lakers realistic NBA picks to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy?
Road to No. 18?
The sportsbook has Los Angeles at +300 to win the NBA championship, behind the Nuggets and the Boston Celtics. This could change depending on the result of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Philadelphia 76ers and Celtics. But for now, the Lakers are viewed as the third fiddle.
With another championship, Los Angeles would pass Boston for the most titles in NBA history at 18. James would also win his fifth ring, perhaps aiding his GOAT case. Denver cannot be overlooked, though. This series should be fantastic, especially with Nuggets center Nikola Jokic’s incredible postseason.
Over the last 50 seasons, only two players have recorded at least 200 points, 70 rebounds and 60 assists in one playoff series. James did it in the 2016 NBA Finals, and Jokic just completed the feat against the Phoenix Suns. Jokic did it in six games, compared to James in seven.
We have heard it time and time again, but Davis’ play will likely decide the Lakers’ fate. They cannot get past Jokic and the Nuggets unless Davis plays outstanding defense, which he has thus far.
Los Angeles is a reasonable pick to win it all. It could feature the best defense and deepest rotation among the final four teams. Will the Lakers win their 18th championship? Call your shots at BetUS Sportsbook.