Why the Lakers still own the Nuggets

I know what you Laker haters are thinking. You assume that after L.A. gets its first win over the Nuggets this season that I must be some Johnny-come-lately who’s calling his shot prematurely.

I’ve only got one question for you. Did you see the fourth quarter on Sunday?

Denver dominated for 36 minutes, the Lakers owned the final 12.

That’s what champions do. No matter the odds, they rise to the occasion.

No excuses needed. Prior to Sunday’s 95-89 victory, the Lakers seemed doomed to be haunted by Denver this year.

George Karl has a  sick squad. By far the best team in the NBA that doesn’t sport Purple and Gold (or White on Sundays). They’re even better than that team with some guy named LeBron on the roster.

Yeah, I said it!

Between the clutch shooting of Chuncey Billups, the size and athleticism of the front line and the play of that McNasty beast named Carmelo Anthony, Denver is a team to be reckoned with. Still, they’re lacking that extra something required to be champions. Something you saw spring to life in Staples as the Lake Show shifted into high gear when it mattered most.

So, why do the Lakers still own Denver despite just one win against two losses to the Nuggets this season?

Simple answer.

Watch the 4th quarter again and you’ll understand why.

Prior to the final 12, Denver did whatever they wanted. They dictated the tempo, dominated the boards and frustrated the best player on the planet.

Then, the moment of truth occurred. With another victory against L.A. in sight, Denver folded. Not unlike what happened in the playoffs last season. Sure, its just one win against two losses but it was Denver’s chance to pull closer to the Lakers atop the West and to win the season series. In essence, it was a playoff atmosphere with a 3-0 lead in the balance.

Guess who’s got life in this battle now.

With Kobe Bryant struggling, Denver still couldn’t seal the deal.

Ron Artest harassed Melo all afternoon, finally fouling him out of the contest when his team needed their MVP most. Lamar Odom continues to do damage off the pine (20 and 12, +15 in 30 minutes of play). He won’t get any love as 6th man of the year, but Lamar invaluable in his role.

Even though KB24 didn’t have his best game – thanks in part to Compton Centennial alum Arron Afflalo’s D – he still played his MVP role with a double double of Magic Johnson proportions (14 points, 12 dimes). 

All in all, Denver still has the best chance to unseat the champs. There is much work to be done between now and the final meeting in the Mile High City on April 8th. The Lakers can’t sleepwalk through ¾ of the game, expecting teams to roll over for them. Every game from here out is a chance to send a message.

No matter what you haters might think, this is still a rivalry owed by Los Angeles. Consider Sunday’s win as a reminder of what it takes to be the man.

You’ve still gotta beat him.

Denver had their shot to take the season series, they collapsed down the stretch. Now the Lakers have the opportunity to deliver a win in Denver which would not only even the season tilt but would also knock the Nuggets down another peg just prior to the playoffs.

I know what you haters are thinking. Too bad you’re in no place to speak since your team lost at home to the worst team in the NBA while the Lakers just handed the league’s second best squad an L in front of a national audience.

The meeting in April won’t be the last. Something tells me these two will meet again after the regular season has ended and whoever wins that series will be hanging a banner at the start of next season.

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