May 31, 2009

How the Lakers Beat the Nuggets

After six games, the Los Angeles Lakers have won the West by beating the much improved Denver Nuggets. It was by no means a walk in the park for the Lakers, but they did enough to overcome the challenge and earn a return trip to the NBA Finals.

But how did the Lakers beat the Nuggets?

Before the Western Conference Finals started, I offered a preview of the match-up and predicted that the Lakers will win in six games. (I seem to be on a roll as I predicted that the Clippers will get the #1 pick). Now that the series is done, here's a review of the factors I mentioned and more:

  • Kobe Bryant - As I've mentioned in the preview, Kobe Bryant became the biggest factor for the Lakers in the series. He averaged 34 points per game in the series and was the Lakers' leading scorer in all of those games. Nobody in the Denver lineup was capable of slowing the Black Mamba down. (And that includes you, Dahntay Jones). 
  • Offense - The theme of the series was offense as both teams averaged more than 100 points in the six games. The Lakers delivered the knock-out punch in Game Six with a very crisp execution of their offense-- the team won all the four quarters in the game. Prior to the sixth game, the Lakers had only outscored the Nuggets in five of the  twenty quarters. This proves that once the Lakers offense is clicking and they pass the ball well, they are very tough to beat despite bad stretches. 
  • Home Court - the Lakers did lose home court advantage after Game Two, but regained it immediately with a Game Three win. I cited this as a factor because the Lakers had shown they had difficulty winning on the road, particularly against the Houston Rockets. But the Lakers did step up and closed out the Nuggets in Denver, and as the stats would suggest, playing at home mattered to the Nuggets more.
  • Players stepping up - We more or less know what we can get out of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, but the two players that stepped up big time were Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom. If you take away the bad Game Four loss, Ariza averaged 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. Those numbers are pretty much above his regular season stats. As for Lamar Odom, he upped his performance in the last two games of the series after being forgotten in the first four games.
With the combination of offense, improved play and having the game's best closer, the Lakers won over the Nuggets to win the Western Conference title.

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