2020 Playoffs | West finals: (1) Lakers vs. (3) Nuggets

Numbers preview: Western Conference finals -- Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs. Denver Nuggets (3)

Denver will need to slow L.A.'s elite offense, which has fired on all cylinders in the playoffs

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

The Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. With their second straight comeback from a 3-1 series deficit, the Nuggets dispatched the LA Clippers and surprised everyone who expected a “Battle of L.A.” matchup in the Western Conference finals.

The Los Angeles Lakers did their part, cruising through the first two rounds to reach the conference finals for the first time in 10 years. They’re the clear favorite, but Denver remains both dangerous and battle-tested, with at least one fascinating matchup question for the Lakers to answer: How do you cover Nikola Jokic?

Series hub | Shaun Powell’s series preview

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the Western Conference finals, with links to let you dive in and explore more. Game 1 is Friday at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Los Angeles Lakers (52-19, 8-2)

First round: Beat Portland in five games.

Conf. semis: Beat Houston in five games.

Pace: 99.8 (7)

OffRtg: 114.4 (2)

DefRtg: 105.4 (3)

NetRtg: +9.0 (1)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

vs. Denver: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Playoffs: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Lakers efficiency by round
Round Opp. OffRtg Rank AdjO DefRtg Rank AdjD
First round POR 114.5 6 +0.2 104.1 5 -9.1
Conf. semis HOU 114.4 1 +4.6 106.8 4 -5.7
AdjO = OffRtg – opponent’s regular-season DefRtg

AdjD = DefRtg – opponent’s regular-season OffRtg

Lakers postseason notes – General:

  1. Have outscored their opponents by 13.0 points in the paint per game, the biggest differential in the playoffs.
  2. Have been the best first-quarter team in the postseason, outscoring their opponents by 18.3 points per 100 possessions in the opening 12 minutes.
  3. 8-0 after leading by double-digits. 0-2 after trailing by double-digits.
Lakers postseason shot profile
Area FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Restricted area 213 302 70.5% 1 36% 1
Other paint 35 91 38.5% 10 11% 15
Mid-range 52 118 44.1% 5 14% 11
Corner 3 55 133 41.4% 9 16% 3
Above-break 3 66 203 32.5% 14 24% 16
%FGA = Percentage of total shots

Lakers postseason notes – Offense:

  1. According to Synergy play-type tracking, 18.9% of their possessions, the highest rate in the playoffs, have been in transition. According to Second Spectrum tracking, 19% of their shots, also the highest rate, have come in the first six seconds of the shot clock.
  2. Rank 15th in the playoffs in player movement (10.4 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and eighth in ball movement (311 passes per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  3. Have scored 95.0 points per 100 possessions (shooting 23% from 3-point range) in Game 1s, but 119.3 points per 100 possessions (39%) otherwise.
  4. Have taken 39% of their 3-point attempts, the highest rate in the playoffs, from the corners.
  5. Rank last in both pull-up jumpers per game (18.9) and drives per game (32.5), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  6. Lead the playoffs with 4.4 secondary assists per game.
  7. Rank last with just 2.21 dribbles per touch.
Lakers offensive four factors
Season type eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TO% Rank FTA Rate Rank
Reg. season 54.2% 5 28.3% 6 14.9% 23 0.276 6
Playoffs 56.8% 2 29.5% 2 16.1% 15 0.289 6
eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained.

TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions.

FTA Rate = FTA/FGA

Lakers postseason notes – Defense:

  1. Lead the postseason in both deflections per game (14.5) and blocks per game (6.0).
  2. Rank second in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (51.1%).
  3. Rank second in (lowest) opponent assist-turnover ratio (1.28).
  4. Have allowed just 0.59 points per possession, the postseason’s lowest rate, from roll men.
Lakers defensive four factors
Season type eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TO% Rank FTA Rate Rank
Reg. season 51.5% 7 26.3% 11 15.7% 3 0.263 16
Playoffs 51.2% 3 23.8% 8 15.2% 3 0.302 12

Lakers postseason notes – Lineups:

  1. Lineup of Caldwell-Pope, Green, James, Davis and McGee has outscored its opponents by 21.5 points per 100 possessions, by far the best mark among 10 lineups that have played at least 75 minutes together.
  2. Anthony Davis ranks second in the postseason in raw plus-minus, with the Lakers having outscored their opponents by 108 points with him on the floor. LeBron James (+101) and Danny Green (+88) rank third and fifth, respectively. The Lakers have been 21.5 points per 100 possessions better with Davis on the floor (+14.7) than they’ve been with him off the floor (-6.8). That’s the biggest on-off NetRtg differential among players who’ve played at least 100 minutes for one of the four teams still playing.
  3. The Lakers have scored 125.0 points per 100 possessions with Danny Green on the floor. That’s the highest on-court OffRtg mark among 121 players who have averaged at least 15 minutes per game in the playoffs.
  4. The Lakers have allowed just 98.8 points per 100 possessions with Alex Caruso on the floor. That’s the lowest on-court DefRtg mark among players who advanced out of the first round and have averaged at least 15 minutes per game in the playoffs.

Lakers postseason notes – Individuals:

  1. 22% of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s points have been fast break points. That’s the third highest rate among 101 players with at least 50 total points scored in the playoffs.
  2. Alex Caruso has averaged 4.1 deflections per 36 minutes, most among players who’ve played at least 200 minutes in the playoffs.
  3. Caruso has taken 95% of his shots, the fourth highest rate among 88 players with at least 50 postseason field goal attempts, from the restricted area (38%) or 3-point range (57%).
  4. Caruso has scored just 0.159 points per touch, fourth fewest among 68 players with 300 total touches in the postseason.
  5. Anthony Davis is the leading scorer (27.6 points per game) among players still playing. He also leads the postseason with 5.4 second chance points per game.
  6. Davis has a free throw rate of 54 attempts per 100 shots from the field, the fifth highest rate among 88 players with at least 50 field goal attempts in the playoffs. Danny Green (8 per 100) and Caldwell-Pope (9 per 100) have the third and fourth lowest rates among that group, respectively.
  7. Davis has taken 33% of his shots, the fourth highest rate among 88 players with at least 50 field goal attempts, from mid-range. His rate of 2.4 mid-range attempts for every one 3-point attempt is the highest among 89 players with at least 30 shots from outside the paint.
  8. Green ranks second in the postseason with 15 corner 3s. Caldwell-Pope is tied for third with 13.
  9. LeBron James (26.6 and 10.3) and Davis (27.6 and 10.9) are two of seven players (Nikola Jokic is another) who have averaged at least 25 points and 10 rebounds per game in the playoffs. James (8.8) is the only one in that group that has also averaged at least six assists.
  10. James has grabbed 25.7% of available defensive rebounds while he’s been on the floor, up from 19.1% in the regular season and the sixth highest rate (second highest among players still playing) in the playoffs.
  11. James leads the playoffs with 6.8 points per game in transition.
  12. James has traveled 3.62 miles per hour in the playoffs, fourth slowest among 121 players who’ve averaged at least 15 minutes per game. Davis has traveled the slowest on offense (3.80 miles per hour).
  13. James (13.2) and Davis (12.4) rank fourth and fifth in points in the paint per game. They’re the only two players who have shot better than 75% on at least 35 attempts in the restricted area.
  14. James’ 31 assists to Davis are the second most from one player to a single teammate in the playoffs.
  15. Kyle Kuzma had an effective field goal percentage of 62.2% against Houston, up from 43.0% against Portland. That was the second biggest jump among 49 players with at least 25 field goal attempts in each of the first two rounds. Caruso had the third biggest jump (from 42.6% to 58.6%).
  16. Opponents have shot just 38.5% at the rim when JaVale McGee has been there to protect it. That’s the best rim protection mark among 47 players who have defended at least 25 shots at the rim in the playoffs.
  17. Markieff Morris had an effective field goal percentage of 67.2% against Houston, the second best mark among 58 players with at least 25 field goal attempts in the conference semifinals.
  18. Rajon Rondo has recorded assists on 38.5% of his possessions, the highest rate among 121 players who’ve averaged at least 15 minutes per game.
  19. Rondo leads the postseason with 4.0 deflections per game.

Denver Nuggets (46-27, 8-6)

First round: Beat Utah in seven games.

Conf. semis: Beat LA Clippers in seven games.

Pace: 94.3 (15)

OffRtg: 112.5 (5)

DefRtg: 114.0 (11)

NetRtg: -1.5 (9)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

vs. Lakers: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Playoffs: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Nuggets efficiency by round
Round Opp. OffRtg Rank AdjO DefRtg Rank AdjD
First round UTA 116.8 5 +7.5 120.3 14 +8.5
Conf. semis LAC 108.2 3 +1.3 107.8 5 -5.5
AdjO = OffRtg – opponent’s regular-season DefRtg

AdjD = DefRtg – opponent’s regular-season OffRtg

Nuggets postseason notes – General:

  1. Have been outscored by 7.9 points in the paint per game, the fourth worst differential in the playoffs. Also have the fourth worst differential on free throws (-2.5 points per game).
  2. Have been outscored by 8.3 points per 100 possessions over the first three quarters, but are a plus-16.7 per 100 in the fourth.
  3. 7-1 after leading by double-digits. 5-5 after trailing by double-digits and account for three of the five games in these playoffs in which a team won a game it trailed by at least 15 points.
  4. Have played seven of the 13 slowest-paced games in the playoffs.
Nuggets postseason shot profile
Area FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Restricted area 179 290 61.7% 10 25% 13
Other paint 77 168 45.8% 2 14% 9
Mid-range 102 235 43.4% 6 20% 4
Corner 3 33 100 33.0% 13 9% 11
Above-break 3 154 376 41.0% 2 32% 10

Nuggets postseason notes – Offense:

  1. Rank 12th in the playoffs in player movement (10.6 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and seventh in ball movement (314 passes per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  2. Have averaged 33.5 drives per game, second fewest in the playoffs.
  3. 20% of their shots, the second highest rate in the playoffs, have come in the last six seconds of the shot clock, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  4. Have averaged 2.4 corner 3s per game, second fewest in the playoffs.
Nuggets offensive four factors
Season type eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TO% Rank FTA Rate Rank
Reg. season 53.5% 10 29.4% 3 13.9% 9 0.235 26
Playoffs 54.5% 5 27.4% 4 14.0% 9 0.229 16

Nuggets postseason notes – Defense:

  1. 48% percent of their opponents’ shots, the highest opponent rate in the playoffs, have come in the paint.
  2. Have allowed 107.1 points per 100 possessions over their last 10 games after allowing 131.1 through Game 4 of the first round.
  3. Have allowed 116.4 points per 100 possessions through the first three quarters, but just 107.1 in the fourth.
  4. Have allowed 1.21 points per possession, the second highest opponent mark of the playoffs, in transition. But only 12.4% of their opponents’ possessions, the fourth lowest rate, have been in transition.
Nuggets defensive four factors
Season type eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TO% Rank FTA Rate Rank
Reg. season 53.3% 17 27.5% 20 14.4% 14 0.260 14
Playoffs 54.7% 11 27.1% 12 13.6% 10 0.281 8

Nuggets postseason notes – Lineups:

  1. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have played 457 minutes together, most for any pair in the postseason.
  2. The Nuggets have scored 124.6 points per 100 possessions with Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. on the floor. That’s the second best on-court OffRtg mark among 78 two-man combinations that have played at least 200 minutes together.
  3. The Nuggets have been 18.4 points per 100 possessions better with Porter on the floor (+8.2) than they’ve been with him off the floor (-10.2). That’s the fourth biggest on-off NetRtg differential among players who’ve played at least 100 minutes for one of the four teams still playing.
  4. Current starting lineup has allowed 107.7 points per 100 possessions in 140 minutes, but they’ve allowed 120.0 per 100 in 107 minutes with the other four on the floor without Gary Harris.
  5. With Jokic on the floor, the Nuggets have scored 116.2 points per 100 possessions and allowed 117.1. With Mason Plumlee on the floor, they’ve scored 96.4 and allowed 99.3. They’ve played just three minutes together in the postseason.

Nuggets postseason notes – Individuals:

  1. Torrey Craig is one of four players with at least 50 field goal attempts in the playoffs, without a single one coming from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line).
  2. Jerami Grant has shot 3-for-23 (13%) on corner 3s, the worst mark among 13 players who’ve attempted at least 20.
  3. Gary Harris has averaged 4.1 deflections per 36 minutes, second most among 69 players who’ve played at least 200 minutes in the playoffs. He’s accounted for 36% of the Nuggets’ steals while he’s been on the floor. That’s the second highest rate among those same 69 players.
  4. Harris has taken 60.3% of his shots from 3-point range, up from 40.5% in the regular season. That’s the biggest jump among 84 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in the regular season and at least 50 in the playoffs. Grant has seen the third biggest jump (from 39.7% to 58.5%).
  5. Harris has also seen the sixth biggest jump in free throw rate (from 17.7 to 31.7 attempts per 100 shots from the field) among that same group of 84 players.
  6. Nikola Jokic has attempted 112 catch-and-shoot jumpers, 36 more than any other player in the postseason. His effective field goal percentage of 60.3% on catch-and-shoot jumpers ranks 11th among 38 players who’ve attempted at least 35.
  7. Jokic leads the postseason in touches (108.1) and passes (80.8) per game. He leads the postseason with 13 total secondary assists.
  8. Monte Morris has an assist-turnover ratio of 4.63, the fourth best mark among 119 players who’ve averaged at least 15 minutes per game in the playoffs. Michael Porter Jr. has the eighth lowest mark (0.56) among the same group of players.
  9. Jamal Murray ranks second in scoring among players still playing at 27.1 points per game. He’s had two of the postseason’s four 50-point games.
  10. Murray has scored 1.10 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the third best mark among 23 players who’ve averaged at least five ball-handler possessions per game. He leads the postseason with 4.1 points per game on hand-offs.
  11. Murray leads the post season in both clutch points (36) and clutch assists (9).
  12. Murray (42) and Jokic (35) rank second and fourth in the playoffs in total assists on 3-pointers. Murray’s 44 assists to Jokic are 13 more than any other player has to a single teammate in the playoffs. Jokic’s 26 assists to Murray are the third most from one player to a single teammate.
  13. Murray leads the postseason with 41.2 total miles traveled. His 2.94 miles per game ranks second.
  14. Mason Plumlee has grabbed 14.0% of available offensive rebounds while he’s been the floor, the second highest rate among 141 players who’ve averaged at least 10 minutes per game in the playoffs.
  15. Opponents have shot just 41.9% at the rim when Plumlee has been there to protect it. That’s the second best rim protection mark among 47 players who have defended at least 25 shots at the rim in the playoffs. Grant has the fourth best mark (44.7%).
  16. Porter has averaged 24.5 minutes per game, up from 16.4 in the regular season. That’s the fifth biggest jump among 115 players who played in at least 40 regular-season games and have played in at least five playoff games.

Regular season matchup

Lakers won, 3-1

Dec. 3 @ Denver – Lakers 105, Nuggets 96

Dec. 22 @ Lakers – Nuggets 128, Lakers 104

Feb. 12 @ Denver – Lakers 120, Nuggets 116 (OT)

Aug. 10 – Restart – Lakers 124, Nuggets 121

Pace: 95.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes

Lakers OffRtg: 114.7 (7th vs. Denver)

Denver OffRtg: 117.9 (3rd vs. Lakers)

Total points scored, season series
Area LAL DEN Diff.
Restricted area 188 162 26
Other paint 40 46 -6
Total in paint 228 208 20
Mid-range 24 52 -28
3-point range 129 123 6
Total outside paint 153 175 -22
Free throws 72 78 -6
Fast break points 53 52 1
2nd chance points 71 51 20

Matchup notes:

  1. LeBron James was 3-0 against the Nuggets, but missed Denver’s Dec. 22 win. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo missed the August meeting, which was the only one of the four for which the Lakers had Markieff Morris.
  2. For Denver, Will Barton and Mason Plumlee missed the February meeting, while Barton, Gary Harris and Jerami Grant missed the August meeting. Michael Porter Jr. started (and shot 6-for-6 in) that game, but played just five minutes over the first three games against the Lakers.
  3. The Lakers’ three wins were all within five points in the last five minutes. The Lakers scored 50 points on 39 clutch possessions, with James scoring (5) or assisting (8) on 13 of their 16 clutch buckets. Anthony Davis had five blocks in 19 clutch minutes against Denver. Nikola Jokic was one of six players to shoot better than 50% on at least 50 clutch shots this season, but was 1-for-8 in the clutch against the Lakers and the Nuggets sat most of their starters in the fourth quarter of the August meeting.
  4. The Lakers’ Aug. 10 win was their second most efficient game of the season (124 points on 90 possessions), the most efficient game any team has had against the Nuggets, the Nuggets’ third most efficient game of the season (121 points on 91 possessions), and the slowest-paced game of the season for both teams.
  5. The Nuggets’ Dec. 22 win was both their second most efficient game of the season and the second most efficient game any team has had against the Lakers (128 points on 96 possessions).
  6. The 95.8 possessions per 48 minutes (per team) was the slowest pace that the Lakers p=layed against any opponent this season.
  7. The Nuggets had a assist-turnover ratio of 2.47, the highest mark for any team against the Lakers this season. Their 12.0 turnovers per 100 possessions were the third lowest mark against L.A.
  8. The Lakers averaged 17.8 second chance points per game, the highest mark against the Nuggets this season. They grabbed 33.7% of available offensive rebounds, the second highest mark among Denver opponents.
  9. The Lakers outscored the Nuggets by 28.3 points per 100 possessions in a little more than 56 minutes with Anthony Davis at center (no JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard on the floor), but were outscored by 9.7 points per 100 possessions in 94 minutes with Davis at the four.
  10. Grant and Paul Millsap, who have started the Nuggets’ last 11 games together, played just five minutes together against the Lakers (all in the February meeting).
  11. The Lakers were a plus-41 in Alex Caruso’s 81 minutes. That was the second best cumulative plus-minus against the Nuggets this season.
  12. Jamal Murray shot just 3-for-19 (16%) from 3-point range, his worst mark against any team that he played more than once this season. Avery Bradley was the Laker who defended him the most, though he was just 0-for-1 from 3-point range in that matchup.
  13. James and Davis combined to shoot 74.0% in the paint (their combined regular season average was 62.6%), but had an effective field goal percentage of just 35.7% on shots from outside the paint (44.6%). The percentage of their shots that came in the paint (52%) was a little below their average (54%).
  14. Torrey Craig played just two total minutes over the first two meetings, but was the Nugget who saw the most time (8:39) defending James, who shot just 4-for-15 with that matchup.
  15. Only LaMarcus Aldridge defended Davis for more time than Millsap (16:28) this season. Davis shot 12-for-18 with that matchup, but was 9-for-22 against Jokic.
  16. Jokic shot 17-for-30 with one of the Lakers’ centers (McGee or Howard) on the floor and 5-for-15 otherwise.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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