LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. | Preview capsule for the Los Angeles Lakers-Denver Western Conference finals that start Friday:
No. 1 LOS ANGELES LAKERS (52-19, 8-2) vs. No. 3 DENVER NUGGETS (46-27, 8-6)
Season series: Lakers, 3-1. The Lakers finished on an 8-0 run to win 105-96 on Dec. 3; Denver won 128-104 on Dec. 22 in a game where LeBron James didn’t play; the Lakers won 120-116 in overtime on Feb. 12; and the Lakers won 124-121 on Aug. 10, in the bubble, in a game where the Nuggets used 10 players and basically used everybody for exactly two quarters with some unusual lineups.
Schedule: Game 1 is Friday; Game 2, Sunday; Game 3, Tuesday; Game 4, Sept. 24; Game 5, Sept. 26; Game 6, Sept. 28; Game 7, Sept. 30.
Story line: Lakers forward LeBron James is on the brink of his 10th NBA Finals trip, the Lakers are four wins away from getting there for the first time in a decade, and the never-say-die Nuggets are four wins from getting there for the first time. They are the first team in NBA history to rally from 3-1 series deficits twice in the same season — and the same decade, for that matter.
Key matchup: Denver’s Nikola Jokic vs. the Lakers’ Anthony Davis. They are prototypes of the new era of NBA big man, able to guard multiple positions and score from anywhere they want. Their numbers in the playoffs so far are virtually identical; Davis is averaging 27.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists while Jokic has averaged 25.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
Injury watch: Denver’s Will Barton (knee) remains out. The Lakers’ Dion Waiters (left groin) missed the end of the second-round series against Houston.
Numbers of note: The Nuggets have gone to Game 7 in each of their last four playoff series. … Murray averaged a team-best 18.5 points in four games against the Lakers but shot only 16% from 3-point range in those contests. … Davis averaged 29.3 points and James averaged 28.7 against Denver this season. … The Lakers have beaten the Nuggets in all six postseason series between the clubs.
AP prediction: Lakers in 7.