As the two teams meet in the 2017-18 regular season, we take a look back at some of the best moments between them.
10. Nuggets win first playoff game against Lakers
When the Lakers and Nuggets met in the playoffs for the first time in 1979, it was actually the Nuggets who drew first blood. In the three-game series, the Nuggets grabbed the opener, 110-105.
9. Bad pass sinks Nuggets in 2009
The Nuggets earned a split (1-1) in the first two games of their 2009 series with the Lakers, and Game 3 looked promising for Denver. Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets finally had a chance to rebound after a disheartening Game 1 loss. Down 2 with some 30 seconds left, Anthony turned the ball over on an inbounds pass, trying to find Kenyon Martin. Trevor Ariza’s steal locked up the win for LA, 103-97.
8. Nuggets force Game 6 in 2012
Kobe Bryant scored 43 points in an epic playoff performance, but Game 5 of the 2012 matchup went to Denver. JaVale McGee was a force on both ends, scoring 21 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He also added several key blocks to lead the Nuggets to a 102-99 win.
7. Injuries derail Nuggets in 1985
In what amounted to a Lakers' series win, the Denver Nuggets took a serious hit late with injuries. Franchise star Alex English and Calvin Natt both suffered injuries that derailed Denver. English left Game 4–having already scored 28 points–with a broken hand. The Nuggets lost that game, 120-116, and subsequently fell in five games.
6. Lakers trade for Pau Gasol
Yes, this trade meant that much. The Lakers went from a nice team to a championship team by giving Kobe Bryant an all-world big man in his prime. The acquisition of Pau Gasol severely hurt the Denver Nuggets’ high-priced, $84 million roster. Gasol helped the Lakers sweep Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, and the rest of the Nuggets.
5. Lakers escape with Game 1 win in 2009
Perhaps the Nuggets’ best chance to reach the NBA Finals got short-circuited when the team fell apart at the end of Game 1 in 2009. With a chance to win, a late Anthony Carter in-bounds pass turned into a Trevor Ariza steal. The Lakers led by 2 at the time, after trailing for most of the game. The Lakers would hold on to win, 105-103.
4. Anthony barks at Karl
Carmelo Anthony and the 2008 Denver Nuggets had high expectations, and a disappointing series loss to the Lakers ultimately boiled over in Game 4. Anthony yelled at head coach George Karl, “Don’t just sit there” as the team’s ship metaphorically sank. In the locker room, he later said, “We quit. ... Everybody from the players to the coaches.”
3. “We got no shot”
Denver Nuggets head coach Doug Moe won the Coach of the Year Award in 1988. In 1987, Moe’s Nuggets snuck into the playoffs with just 37 wins. Moe would go on to utter a classic line prior to the series: “We got no shot to beat the Lakers.” He was right; Lakers swept them and went won the title that season.
2. Kobe, Lakers outlast Nuggets in 7 games
Even though the two teams have played 28 playoff games, the series in 2011-12 marked one of the most competitive ones. In Game 7, Kobe Bryant played 45:08 and willed the Lakers to a 96-87 win. Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 23 points, and Kobe added eight assists to his 17 points. The Lakers subsequently fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who went to the NBA Finals that year.
1. First matchup ends in nail-biter
Although many will associate Kobe Bryant going up against Carmelo Anthony with this rivalry, the most entertaining classic came in the first meeting back in 1979. In the opening round, the Lakers won the decisive third game by a narrow 112-111 margin. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar floated in one of his patented skyhooks with 12 seconds left in the game to give the Lakers the clinching win.