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NBA Playoff Preview: L.A. Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Apr 27, 2012, 12:07 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant smiles as he hands the ball back to a referee in Minneapolis Reuters

SEASON RECORDS


Lakers: 41-25 (3 seed)
Nuggets: 38-28 (6 seed)

SEASON SERIES


The Lakers took three of the four regular season meetings from the Nuggets, with the only loss coming on New Year’s Day in Denver. All the games were close, however, with L.A.’s margin of victory never being greater than six points.

KEY INJURIES

Lakers: There are no players who will be unavailable due to injury to start this series for the Lakers. The Artest now known as Metta World Peace is serving a seven-game suspension for the elbow he landed on the head of James Harden, so we won’t be seeing him face the Nuggets unless there is a Game 7.

Nuggets: None.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Lakers: offense 103.3 (10th); defense 101.7 (13th)
Nuggets: offense 106.6 (3rd); defense 103.4 (19th)

THREE KEY LAKERS:

Kobe Bryant: Bryant has played this season, for the most part, at an extremely high level. The shin injury he suffered at the beginning of April that forced him to miss seven games may have been a blessing in disguise, as the famously competitive Bryant wouldn’t likely have chosen to get any rest before the playoffs otherwise. As anyone who has watched this Lakers team closely can attest, the preferred and more successful strategy is for Bryant to pace himself offensively, while making sure his teammates get plenty of touches in the game’s early going — instead of making sure to take as many shots as humanly possible, no matter the defense.

Andrew Bynum: It’s been an interesting season for Anrew Bynum, to say the very least. What the Lakers hope to see in the postseason is the dominant, big man that Bynum showed he can be at multiple times this year, instead of the petulant man-child who engages in nonsense on the court that’s detrimental to the team’s efforts. The pressure of the postseason and the veterans on this team should be enough to keep him in check, but should he become disinterested or show a lack of maturity by needlessly picking up technical or flagrant fouls, it could severely impact his team’s chances.

Ramon Sessions: This will be Sessions’ first trip to the postseason in his career, and his performance, especially against this Denver team, will be critical to the Lakers’ success. Sessions will need to stay in front of Ty Lawson defensively, and will need to control the tempo on the offensive end, while resisting the urge to match the speed of Denver’s game.

THREE KEY NUGGETS

Aaron Afflalo: The Nuggets’ two-guard has really stepped his game up late in the season, and he’s going to be trouble for the Lakers. He regularly plays 40 minutes per game, and his scoring average and field goal percentage numbers were way up over his yearly averages in the last month of the season. He’s efficient and able to score in a variety of ways, so the Lakers will try to force him into taking low-percentage, highly-contested shots. Good luck with that.

Ty Lawson: Tempo is going to be the key to this series, and Lawson’s speed will be extremely tough to contain. He makes everything possible offensively for Denver, and offense is where games in this series will be won for the Nuggets.

Kenneth Faried: The rookie nicknamed “Manimal” is as athletic and energetic as they come, but he manages to play under control at the same time. The Lakers will need to be aware of him on both ends of the floor, and make a conscious effort to put a body on him to prevent those hustle plays that give his team extra possessions.

OUTLOOK

The Lakers have the best frontcourt in the game with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and one of its best players in Kobe Bryant. From a talent standpoint, Denver is overmatched. But the Nuggets have been playing excellent team basketball to end the season, finishing the season winning six of seven, and eight of their last 10 games.

Tempo will be the key to this series. If Denver is able to get out in transition and make these high-possession games, the team will have a chance to get some wins in this series. Overall, though, expect the Lakers to play a smart, focused brand of basketball that utilizes their strengths in the first round of these playoffs.

Denver should mostly keep things close, and may get a couple of wins as the Lakers try to find their postseason selves. L.A.’s size down low, along with the presence of a healthy Kobe Bryant, will ultimately be too much.

PREDICTION

Lakers win 4-2.

  1. fouldwimmerlaik - Apr 27, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Lakers (KOBE) sweeps it in 4. I will be dressed in my Kobe Commemorative MVP Jersey watching his dismantling of the Nuggets. They are no match for Kobe.

  2. jeffw - Apr 27, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    No way Lakers want a sweep here. They win in 6 and make sure they have MWP back for game 1 of their series with OKC.

    • loungefly74 - Apr 27, 2012 at 1:33 PM

      jeffw…that would be the perfect scenario…

    • stayhigh_247 - Apr 28, 2012 at 2:40 AM

      @jeffw
      umm,no… that’s stupid. If the Lakers have a chance to sweep why wouldn’t they sweep and get an extra 3-4 days to prep for the next round and rest. If they were able to sweep Denver I think they would be able to play 1-2 games against OKC without RonRon, c’mon think! What team is going to tank 2 games in the playoffs so they can get a player back for the next round? WTF!! where’s your logic coming from?

  3. vanuggetsfan - Apr 27, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    Really? The Nuggets have no injuries? Wilson Chandler is injured and out for the rest of the season and Al Harrington has a torn meniscus. Gallinari has a broken thumb.. You only list World Peace because he’s suspended?

    • Kurt Helin - Apr 27, 2012 at 3:57 PM

      We were talking unexpected or new injuries. Those were well known.

  4. 4thquartermagic - Apr 27, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Nuggets in 7… Oh wait a minute I forgot Kobe sat out the last game of the season because he cares more about rings then records so he’s 100% guaranteed another championship.

    At least that’s what Laker fans keep telling me.

    • raidmagic - Apr 27, 2012 at 2:09 PM

      Not a single person on this site said that it 100% guaranteed them a championship, it simply made sense for him to sit and rest in an effort to chase a championship. Being that he would rather chase that than a scoring title. For the record I’m not a Laker fan but some of the posters on this blog are just stupid with thier comments.

      • 4thquartermagic - Apr 27, 2012 at 2:17 PM

        The statement that Kobe “doesn’t care about records, he cares about rings” that COUNTLESS Laker people have posted on this blog DIRECTLY implies that by playing a horrible defensive team in Sacramento in an attempt to win the scoring title would somehow result in Kobe NOT winning a championship.

        My point that one does not inversely effect the other is valid. I said it to point out the hypocrisy of Kobe fans.

        HAD HE PLAYED the Laker fans would have been on here saying ‘Kobe’s the ultimate competitor, he’s a killer, he’s the Black Mamba…”

      • loungefly74 - Apr 27, 2012 at 2:40 PM

        i think what Lakers fans are saying is Kobe has earned the right “to not care about individual goals” as he already has a plethora of hardware, that he is above all that…and getting a 6th ring is his ultimate goal…
        personally, i would have loved to see kobe get the scoring title because i’m a kobe fan…simple as that. BUT i respect his decision to not go for it. he already is “the ultimate competitor, he’s a killer, he’s the Black Mamba…”

      • tsi431 - Apr 27, 2012 at 2:46 PM

        4thquartermagic,

        You do realize you completely contradict yourself during your post?

        You go from analyzing the statement about sitting the final game “DIRECTLY implies” to the very next sentence saying, does not inversely effect the other.

        Congratulations, you are less intelligent then I thought.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 27, 2012 at 4:39 PM

      You, and clowns of your ilk with pathetic beings, are some of the most hopeless human beings living. It’s disgusting to read your low self-esteem driven nonsense.

      • 4thquartermagic - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:20 PM

        You and the elitist scum you affiliate with are some of the most arrogant pieces of garbage. Take your sense of entitlement and go straight to h3ll.

  5. trueballs - Apr 27, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    The luxury Kobe has (and has always had) is that he CAN coast until the 4th quarter. Even when Bynum and Gasol are having bad games, they’re 7ft and they produce.

    LeBron has to score, defend like hell, and cover up all the deficiencies of his teammates on a nightly basis. When Wade and Bosh have bad nights they don’t have many physical advantages to make up for it.

    A lot of people think that since Miami has Wade&Lebron that they have a significant advantage. I’d take the two best 7-footers over two great wing players any day.

    • progress2011 - Apr 27, 2012 at 8:09 PM

      littleballs….you mean, kinda like when kobe ” COASTED” as long as he wanted during the Dallas series last year.

      He coasted until the the janitors came in with the brooms and swept him outta the building!

      That was a real LUXURY, not having to walk outta the building because he was swept.

      laker (I’m sorry) kobe fans, are entirely oblivious to the real world. Keep dreaming fairy tales, out there in ” la-la land ” ….you will have it handed to you again, this year !

      The truth is, your team got worse, since last year !

      1. You don’t have the bench play,
      2. You don’t have the triangle,
      3. You don’t have Phil Jackson

      You won’t make it outta the first round !

      now call all the other delirious laker bloggers, to give me 50 thumbs down. It still won’t change the real world. ahahahahaha

  6. lemfax - Apr 27, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    Denver 4-3

  7. omniusprime - Apr 28, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    Time for Kobe and the Lakers to sweep the trash back to Denver where the Nuggets belong. Better to not horse around like last year against the Hornets, time for the Lakers to rise and shine in the first series to set themselves up for the second round which will be tough. Kobe showed he’s the real MVP of the NBA despite the fact that the dimwitted pundits can’t figure that out.

  8. tundra11 - Apr 28, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    The Lakers will win this series in 4. And the next in 4. And the next, and the next. The Lakers ARE the NBA! Anyone who denies that are kidding themselves. Last year was a fluke. The Lakers should be winning their fourth in a row this year. They are the NBA 2012 Champions. Metta World Peace was wronged and now the NBA pretenders will pay the price!

  9. crochetdad - Apr 29, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    I’m watching the game now and find it hard to hear the announcers because the crowd noise is louder than the announcers. Is there some way to get this word to the technical staff?

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