LeBron James won’t be overlooking his opponents when his Los Angeles Lakers open their Western Conference finals series against the Denver Nuggets on Friday.
“Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team,” James said Thursday, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “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 ball club.
“That’s how we’re going into this series, understanding what they’re capable of, where they stand.”
The Nuggets overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the opening round against the Utah Jazz before doing the same to eliminate the Los Angeles Clippers, a team considered prime contenders for the 2020 NBA title.
Prior to this year’s Nuggets, teams had come back to win Game 7 after trailing 3-1 in a series just 11 times, the most recent example being James’ own Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 Finals against the Golden State Warriors. No squad had ever done it twice in one postseason until Denver.
James credits the work of Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, who was an assistant in Cleveland during the four-time MVP’s first stint with the Cavaliers, for Denver’s unprecedented perseverance.
“I know how much Coach Mo put into our schemes, put into our productivity, put into what we needed to do to go out and win ballgames when we were together in Cleveland,” James said. “I saw that.
“So the respect level, just seeing what he was putting into his craft, it made it easy for me to grow a likeness to him.”
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