Lakers Coach Frank Vogel: 'Any One Of These Three Teams Remaining Can Beat Us'
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said the coaching staff is very much on edge even though the landscape of the playoffs looks different than many anticipated.
The Lakers, who breezed through their first two series in five games each, will be facing the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals instead of the second-seeded Clippers.
And in the East, the No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks and the defending champion Toronto Raptors were eliminated, setting up a matchup between the third-seeded Boston Celtics and the fifth-seeded Miami Heat.
There were upsets and epic downfalls for some of the teams to arrive where they are, and Vogel said all of the teams that remain are dangerous.
"Any one of these three teams remaining can beat us, and the Denver Nuggets are a terrific basketball team," Vogel said in a videoconference Wednesday. "So are the Boston Celtics, so are the Miami Heat. So while we have players that have been there, we’ve not been there as a group yet. So we’re still super hungry to get the job done, recognizing and respecting the opponents that are still remaining."
The Nuggets overcame two-straight 3-1 series deficits to advance to the Conference Finals.
And Vogel said the Lakers are going to have to play them much differently than the Houston Rockets.
Against the Rockets, the Lakers' centers took a backseat as the team opted for a small-ball lineup. JaVale McGee played in four games, averaging 7.3 minutes. And Dwight Howard played in only two games, averaging 7.6 minutes.
This time around, Vogel hinted the Lakers' centers are going have a much more prominent role.
"In terms of how much we’ll use our centers, I don’t want to get too much into detail," Vogel said. "But obviously we’re going to be the LA Lakers who we’ve been all year. We adjusted to a small-ball team last series, but I would expect us to return to form."
This time, they're up against the 7-foot Nikola Jokic, who had 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists in Game 7 of the Nuggets' second-round series against the Clippers.
"Joker is one of the most unique players in the world, and one of the most unique players ever to play the center position in this league," Vogel said. "What he’s able to do is he can basically hurt you in all ways. He can hurt you at the 3-point line, in the pocket, playing the 4-on-3 game in the post, and obviously with his passing."
They're also going to have to contend with Jamal Murray, who had 40 points in Tuesday's Game 7.
This much is clear -- the Nuggets have shown they can never be counted out.
"To me, just the confidence that they’re playing with, the chip on their shoulder that they’re playing with was really noticeable," Vogel said. "Obviously they’re a very resilient group to come back from 3-1 twice in the same year, and we’re going to have to play great to beat them."