Lakers / Nuggets:
The Denver Nuggets seem to be headed down one of two paths. For some people they’re that team that’s not getting enough attention that will make a deep playoff run. For others they’re a club that has a lot of interesting parts but lacks a true superstar to carry them through the playoffs. The Lakers? Let’s just say it’s been an interesting season. They clearly have not lived up to the preseason predictions due to a whole bunch of injury and cohesiveness issues. Still they’ll most likely head into the playoffs with a lineup that includes four future Hall of Famers--- a pretty good set of ingredients for a deep playoff run.
The Season Series: It hasn’t gone well for the Lakers versus the Nuggets this season. The Nuggets have won all three games pretty convincingly with the same theme dominating the games. The Nuggets have won with great depth and balanced scoring with strong bench performances. The Lakers have seen strong games from Kobe Bryant but inconsistent games from the reset of their top players and very little bench contribution. In two of the three games the undersized Nuggets have outrebounded the Lakers by double digits.
Key Matchup for the Lakers: Dwight Howard. The Nuggets have adopted the Miami Heat’s version of small ball and it’s worked for them offensively. Defensively though it still leaves them susceptible to a good big man inside. With Kosta Koufos, Kenneth Faried and Javale McGee they are young and athletic but also prone to foul trouble. They can get away with small ball in a league with very few elite centers. Although his season has been up and down Dwight Howard is an elite center that can exert his will versus the Nuggets and impact the series greatly.
Key Matchup for the Nuggets: Ty Lawson. Lawson is an extremely quick point guard with a tremendous amount of movement and activity on the court. Although he’s small in stature he presents a unique challenge to Steve Nash due to his youth and quickness. Lawson has quietly become one of the elite point guards in the Western Conference and is really the catalyst for the Nuggets offense. The Nuggets want to play a frenetic and up tempo style, a style that Nash is not exactly suited for anymore as he advances in age.
Home Court Advantage: The Nuggets have a significant home court advantage at Pepsi Center where they are currently 32-3 on the season. As a club they have a tremendous amount of energy and the crowd feeds off of that creating a very difficult home environment to play in.
Health: The Nuggets have been relatively healthy this season. The Lakers have had a tremendous amount of injury issues and seem to be rounding into shape, although Metta World Peace recently went down with a calf strain that may limit him for a few games. The injury should not be long term.
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