LeBron James knows just how difficult it is to overcome a 3-1 series deficit.
In 2016, he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to become the first team in NBA history to claw their way back from such a hole in The Finals.
So, after the Nuggets did that in two consecutive series -- against Utah in the first round the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals -- James said he has a lot of respect for the team.
"Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team," James said in a videoconference Thursday. "It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. That's how we're going into this series, understanding what they're capable of, where they stand."
The Lakers open the Western Conference Finals against the Nuggets on Friday at 6 p.m. PST on TNT. It's the first time they've made it this far in the playoffs in 10 years, since Kobe Bryant led the team to his fifth and final championship in 2010.
James knows the Lakers have to be prepared for anything.
After all, he played under Denver coach Michael Malone when he was an assistant on the Cavaliers from 2005-2010 and has long talked about how much he admires him.
"When you work hard on your craft, you see others working just as hard on their craft, it becomes organic and it becomes mutual respect," James said. "I know how much Coach Mo put into our schemes, put into our productivity, put into what we needed to do to go out and win ball games when we were together in Cleveland. I saw that."
This matchup caught many people by surprise.
After the Clippers jumped to a 3-1 lead, it seemed as though Los Angeles would finally gets its so-called hallway series. But the Clippers, who have never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs in their 50-year franchise history, had yet another epic collapse.
A reporter asked James on Thursday if that surprised him.
"I don't have a comment about it really," James said. "I was just sitting back and watching the game from a fan's perspective, seeing big shots be made, big plays being made, missed shots, things of that nature."
Anthony Davis, for one, is looking forward to playing the Nuggets.
He said he uses Nikola Jokić, who has averaged 25.4 points and 10.8 rebounds during the playoffs, as a barometer of sorts for his own game.
"It challenges me on defense when I'm guarding him to see where my defense stands against his offense," Davis said. "He's one of the better post players in this league, better offensive players in this league. He can score from all over the floor. Any time I match up against him, it's always a battle. It's fun for me to test where I am defensively, especially against a guy like that."
It's going to be an interesting series.
The Nuggets have won everyone's respect and attention.
"We're preparing for an extremely dangerous, extremely well-coached, extremely great team in the Nuggets," James said. "That's been our only focus."