May 12, 2012, 3:58 PM EDT
It’s a do-or-die Game 7, but the questions are the same one since Game 1.
Can the Nuggets get the Lakers to play their up-tempo, scattered game? Can anyone on the Lakers stop Ty Lawson? Can the Lakers slow the game down, pound the ball inside to their big men and use their size and skill? Maybe the biggest of all, will the Lakers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol play with passion or coast through the game and their defensive assignments?
We have a lot more context for those questions now, but it is Saturday night we will get the answers.
Home teams win 8 out of 10 Game 7s, and the Lakers as a franchise have won 10 straight home Game 7s. I don’t care. Those games don’t impact this one.
What it does point to is that role players tend to play better at home and in a game where everyone can be a little tight that level of comfort can be the difference. Remember the last Game 7 the Lakers were in, against the Boston Celtics in the 2011 NBA finals? Who was the Lakers best player that game? Ron Artest. The one guy with the mentality not to be bothered by such things as pressure and nerves.
Artest is now Metta World Peace and the Lakers get him back for this game, following his seven-game suspension for elbowing the Thunder’s James Harden in the head. Having him back will be huge for the Lakers because of the energy and passion he brings — so long as he stays within the offensive system and doesn’t try to take it over.
For the Lakers, that is the key — work inside out. Get Bynum and Gasol going early and focused, Denver does not have anyone who can match up with them.
That does not mean no Kobe — if anything, the Lakers need Kobe on the court more. As Forum Blue and Gold noted, when Kobe is on the bench the Lakers have shot 38.3 percent and just 20 percent from three. Their offense stagnates and is defendable. The Lakers cannot afford that kind of stretch.
We know what we’re going to get from Denver — effort and passion. They are going to play hard. Danilo Gallinari is a hard matchup for any team, Andre Miller has played his best ball in recent memory (PER of 21.6 in the playoffs) and Kenneth Faried is everything the Lakers are not. Their only wild card, and the guy that could be the difference is JaVale McGee. When he has played well Denver has won as they balance out the Lakers advantage inside.
You know the Nuggets will bring it. The question that remains to be answered is will the Lakers?
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