X-Factors Going Forward in Western Conference Finals
The Western Conference Finals are in full swing and they’re starting off with a bang. While the Los Angeles Lakers may be up 2-0 on the Denver Nuggets, the Nuggets have been putting up a fight. The series would be tied right now were it not for a game-winner from Anthony Davis.
The Lakers were in full control in Game 1. With all of this in mind, it’s worth looking at who will be the X-factors going forward for these two Western Conference heavyweights. We already know the star duos of Anthony Davis and LeBron James along with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic will be instrumental, but what about the supporting cast of both squads?
Western Conference Finals X-Factors
X-Factor #1: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard has already left his mark on this series. He can be physical and draw Jokic into foul trouble. However, Jokic started to bait him as well as we saw in Game 2. Regardless, Howard will be key in terms of his rim protection and providing solid energy off the bench. He is great for lobs and providing a big presence down low which could deter the Nuggets from driving the lane. Dwight Howard may not be the Dwight of old, but he still has a shot at his first title and he is hungry to do whatever to earn his ring.
X-Factor #2: Rajon Rondo
Playoff Rajon Rondo is real. The man just moved up the top-10 list for playoff assists after the Lakers’ Game 2 victory. He can draw defenders away from the paint and open up lanes for his teammates creating easy opportunities. It’s what Rondo has done best for his whole career. During this season’s playoffs, he has averaged 7.6 assists per game to go along with 1.9 steals and 47.6 percent from three-point land. When Rondo is also hitting his jump shots, there is little the defense can do to contain the 15-year veteran.
X-Factor #3: Michael Porter
Michael Porter has had a terrific outing in the bubble. He made the All-Bubble Team and started to showcase his potential and value in game two for the Nuggets. He is not shy about letting it go from deep and more often than not, his shot tickles the twine. Case in point, this three-point shot over LeBron James.
The Nuggets are in need of a third scoring option and Porter is going to need to step up and become that, especially in the absence of Will Barton. During the postseason, he has tallied 11.5 points, 6.9 rebounds per game, and an effective field goal percentage of 55.2 percent. The Nuggets may need him to take on more responsibility if they want to have a chance to defeat the Lakers.
X-Factor #4: PJ Dozier
PJ Dozier provided some excellent play off the bench in some surprising Game 2 minutes. He took on Anthony Davis in a surprising drive to the rim in which he got an and-one opportunity. Now, if Dozier can just be a little more consistent from the free-throw line, the Nuggets will be in business. Dozier was only 1-5 from the charity stripe. He has excellent length and seems capable of keeping up with LeBron James at least a little bit. This will immensely help Denver’s defense going forward in this series.