DECOPHER: Lakers’ X-factor vs. Nuggets in 2024 NBA Playoffs and it’s not Rui Hachimura

   

The Lakers are hoping to avoid a repeat of last season’s playoff series against the Nuggets.

Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura with the Lakers arena in the background, Gabe Vincent Nuggets NBA Playoffs

The Los Angeles Lakers come into the 2024 NBA Playoffs with a little bit of momentum. After hovering around the 9-11 range for most of the season, they used strong play, and a little help from teams ahead of them, to surge into the 7-8 range in the waining days of the regular season. As the Lakers get set to open the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, backup guard Gabe Vincent could be the X-factor.

The Lakers came into the postseason needing a win in the play-in tournament to advance to the first round. Although the Lakers were the eighth seed in the Western Conference standings, they took care of business against the New Orleans Pelicans to move up to the No. 7 seed and a rematch with the Nuggets.

Last season, the Lakers used a surprising run to reach the Western Conference Finals where they squared off against the Nuggets. It resulted in a 4-0 sweep for the Nuggets who ultimately went on to win the NBA title. The Lakers are hoping that this time around, things might be a little different.

A big part of the Lakers turnaround this season was the insertion of Rui Hachimura back into the starting lineup and Darvin Ham settling on a rotation. Hachimura has the potential to be the Lakers’ X-factor this series, but there’s another player who could fit that bill a bit better in Gabe Vincent.

Vincent missed the majority of the 2023-24 season due to injury, but he’s since made his return to the lineup and has already made an impact on the court.

Gabe Vincent could shine for the Lakers against the Nuggets

One thing about Gabe Vincent is that he’s already faced this Nuggets team as a member of the Miami Heat during last year’s NBA Finals. He was the starting point guard for the Heat. He’s coming off the bench for the Lakers, but he’s already made his presence felt.

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