Saturday, June 3 2023

The Los Angeles Lakers are suddenly in dire need of a win after they lost the first two games of the Western Conference Finals to the Denver Nuggets in Colorado.

Many feel LeBron James is starting to fatigue, while D’Angelo Russell has played poorly so far in this series and no one off the bench other than Rui Hachimura has contributed offensively.

Luckily, the Lakers are returning home for the next two games, and they will have the benefit of their home fans, not to mention the oxygen-rich air of coastal Southern California.

These three areas of emphasis should allow L.A. to get on the board in this series before it’s too late.

Get off to a good start

The Lakers did get off to a relatively good start in Game 2, forging an 11-point second-quarter lead after playing Denver even in the first quarter. They will need another first half like that in order to win Game 3.

On a related note, they cannot give up any big runs like the 15-1 spurt in the fourth quarter that basically decided Game 2. If and when the Nuggets start to go on a run, L.A. needs to blunt it and limit the damage so it can at least remain within striking distance.

Contain Jamal Murray

This was a big point of emphasis in the first two contests, but it went unheeded. Murray had 31 points in Game 1 and 37 points in Game 2, with 23 of his points in Game 2 coming in the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles’ defenders on him need to be more physical and take away his airspace from the outset, especially off pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs.

Nikola Jokic is going to get his points, but if the Lakers hold Murray to under 25 points, and especially if they keep him to 20 or fewer points, they should have an excellent shot at winning.

Russell has to shoot well

In these playoffs, Russell has been something of a barometer. When he has shot over 45 percent from the field, the Lakers have been 5-1 since the postseason began.

He has shot a combined 7-of-19 overall and 1-of-8 from 3-point range in this series so far while tallying eight assists, and that is simply unacceptable. He may not need to have a high assists total, but he will need to give his team an efficient 15-18 points, if not more.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire

Source: Yahoo Sports


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