May 19, 2009

Lakers-Nuggets Western Conference Finals Preview

After a wakeup call from the pesky Houston Rockets, the first-seeded Los Angeles Lakers now find themselves in a showdown with the second-seeded Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. What bodes for the Lakers in this round?

A much-improved Nuggets team, that's for sure.

Yes, the Lakers did go 3-1 against the Nuggets in the regular season. But if there's anything the Lakers-Rockets series taught is is that the regular season record in the playoffs is as good as steak sauce in a vegan food fest-- it's virtually useless. The Lakers had a 4-0 mark against the Rockets and yet were humbled and taken to the limit.

The up-and-coming Nuggets have shown resilience and consistency in their previous series and that doesn't look good for the "bi-polar" Lakers. But there are still some things that go in the Lakers' favor:

  • Kobe Bryant - #24 has played extremely well against the Nuggets this season, averaging 31 points and I see him continuing his dominating way against the Nuggets in this series. The best perimeter the Nuggets have is Dahntay Jones and he is not the caliber of Houston's Ron Artest or Shane Battier, both All-Defensive Second Team members.
  • Offense - The Lakers can play a fast run-and-gun game with Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom on the floor, and they can also play grind-it-out sets with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Heck, if this becomes a shoot-out, there's Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, and Sasha Vujacic. This multi-faceted team has helped the Lakers blast opponents with scoring runs (just like what happened in Game Five and Game Seven in the Houston series).
  • Home Court Advantage - When all else fails for the Lakers, they can always find comfort in the fact that they play four games in Los Angeles, where they have played their best playoff basketball.
The Western Conference Finals would be a quality series, since both teams are talented and deep. But I think the factors I've mentioned will give the Lakers the edge. My prediction: Lakers in 6.

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