After the Los Angeles Lakers convincingly advanced to the Western Conference Finals on Friday night, legendary broadcaster Dick Vitale offered the opinion that the NBA should simply award the Lakers the 2023 championship.
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) May 13, 2023
Vitale specifically cited the contributions of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, with the duo delivering solid, all-around performances in the clincher.
James came close to a triple-double with 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while also adding a pair of steals. Davis contributed a double-double with 17 points and 20 rebounds, adding three assists, two blocks and two steals to his stat sheet on the night.
The Lakers were in control of the game for much of the night, which most likely sparked Vitale’s over-the-top response. After jumping out to a 27-10 lead to start the game, the Lakers withstood comeback attempts by the defending NBA champions.
Performances like that from James and Davis are nothing new. However, for a good portion of the past few years, simply keeping the pair healthy has been an issue.
That struggle short-circuited the Lakers’ title defense in 2021 and was a key factor in the team not even reaching the postseason last year.
For much of this season, playoff hopes were not even guaranteed. The Lakers were relegated to the play-in portion of the schedule, and after emerging from that scrum, they upset the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite getting past the Warriors, the Lakers still have a stiff challenge in front of them against the Nuggets. Getting to the 2023 NBA Finals will once again require the Lakers to defeat a team that has home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series.
The Nuggets finished the 2022-23 regular season with the best record in the Western Conference at 53-29. That’s been followed by playoff series wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns, success that has earned the respect of James.
One of the keys to defeating the Nuggets will be trying to keep the team’s superstar center, Nikola Jokic, under control. The two-time MVP is a force and has the potential to dominate a contest on any given night.
Dealing with that formidable issue is why Vitale’s well-intentioned prediction should be taken with a grain of salt.