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Nuggets ready to take on Lakers in Round 1 after sweeping aside past defeats

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It’s all about what’s ahead and not what’s in the past for the Nuggets.

With the 2023-24 NBA regular season coming to an end, the Denver Nuggets‘ quest to defend their title officially begins. As the second seed in the Western Conference, the Nuggets would face the winner of the play-in game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers would get the victory, and for the third time in five years, there will be a playoff series between the Nuggets and LA.

As of late, the Nuggets have had the upper hand over the Lakers. In the 2023 Conference finals, the Nuggets would sweep the Lakers en route to their first franchise NBA Championship. The pain for Lakers fans didn’t end there. Not only did the Nuggets end their 2023 season, but they would also sweep the regular season series the following year. In fact, the last time the Lakers beat the Nuggets was December 16th, 2022.

While the Lakers had to play themselves into their playoff seed, the Nuggets have been using the week off to rest up and prepare mentally. Nuggets players were invited over to Nikola Jokic‘s house to watch the Pelicans-Lakers game, while the coaches ordered from a local Denver pizzeria and watched from the office.

It was a blast. It’s always a good time when we can all get together,” said Peyton Watson via The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando. “And it’s always an honor when the two-time MVP, soon to be three, invites you over to his house to indulge in a basketball game. So definitely went over there, drank a little Rakija. Got acquainted. A little ritual right before the playoffs. Kind of just letting loose and having a good night with my guys (to) bond a little bit before we get into these serious playoffs.”

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It’s a new season and new series according to the Nuggets

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) guards Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) in the first half during game two of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena.
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday the Nuggets hosted their first practice ahead of their Round 1 matchup. Following practice, players and coaches were asked questions, many of which all involved the Nuggets’ eight-game win streak against the Lakers.

“Everyone keeps talking about how we’ve beaten them eight games in a row, and as I told our players today, that doesn’t mean anything,” head coach Michael Malone told reporters. “This is a different team, a different series, and we know what we have in front of us. It’ll be a hell of a challenge to beat the Lakers in the playoffs.”

The Nuggets are fully aware that heading into the 2024 playoffs, they have a bullseye on their back. As defending champions, expectations will undoubtedly be high. They’ve put the win streak against the Lakers in the rear window, and are focused on the task at hand. Regardless of the expectations, Jokic and the Nuggets are looking forward to the matchup.

“I think we match up with them really good and they match up with us really good,” said Jokic. “… They can do a couple different things on defense. On offense, we can put some other guys on their main players. So I think it’s gonna be really interesting basketball-wise. Strategy-wise, I think it’s gonna be really interesting.”

Game 1 between the Nuggets and Lakers is set to tip off at Ball Arena on Saturday, April 20th at 6:30 p.m. MST.

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