The Nuggets have been on a roll so far. They’re 8-2 in the playoffs and team chemistry is at an all time high. Chauncey and Carmelo have led this healthy squad to this point, but let’s not forget the defensive contributions of Denver’s frontcourt in Kenyon Martin, Birdman and Nené. The team is tougher, more focused and just flat out better than last year’s squad. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say this is the best roster the franchise has ever seen.
All of this is fine and dandy, but is it enough to beat L.A.? The Lakers went to the mountain top last year, so they know what it takes to get there. This year’s squad is more or less the same as last year’s except Bynum will be on call.
When you look at the front court match-ups you have to take Bynum’s knee injury into account. He’s been hobbled throughout the playoffs despite a few flashes. Nene’s been up and down as well but he put up solid numbers in three of the four wins against Dallas. Pau will have to step up against Kenyon and Birdman as they’re physical & athletic defenders.
Back and mid court comparisons will yield heavy advantages for both squads. Kobe is the best shooting guard in the league point blank. Dahntay Jones and JR Smith will spend a lot of time and energy trying to contain him should he go off. Conversely Chauncey and Carmelo are among the league’s best at the 1 and 3 respectively. Fisher and Ariza easily lose on offense so they’ll need a lot of help D to keep them at bay.
Now let’s get into the whole experience debate. Chauncey has a ring and a finals MVP under his belt. This is complemented with Kenyon’s two trips to the finals in his run with the Nets. This is all Denver has to go off of more or less. As previously mentioned L.A. made it to the Finals last year so they have a better sense of what’s at stake here.
To add to that L.A. has home court advantage in their favor. The Lakers needed it to finally beat an undermanned Houston squad in 7 games. They were more talented but they didn’t play like it in that series. At least they came out of that match-up knowing subpar play won’t be tolerated against Denver.
Denver has to steal game 1 or 2 if they want to win this series. I say this for two reasons One, no team beat L.A. back to back this post season. Denver must attack them early rather than go home with an 0-2 deficit. In addition the Nuggets’ two losses came from away games. With that said they’ve only played 4 games outside of the Rockies. Still, no home court against a much better team in the Lakers means Denver has their work cut out for them in the Staples Center.
I picked LA to beat Denver in 6 when the playoffs started. Yes, I still stand by my decision. However Denver has a squad capable of proving me wrong. It’ll be an entertaining series no doubt as I’m not picking favorites between the two.
Previously Posted — TSS NBA Playoffs Review: The Conference Semifinals |TSS NBA Playoffs Review: The First Round | TSS NBA Playoffs Preview: The Later Rounds | TSS NBA Playoffs Preview: The First Round