Ahhh yeah! We’re approaching the opening tip of L.A. 2012 title quest. The Lake Show Life staff teamed up to give you
the low down on how this series will go down.
We decided to give you a full offensive and defensive analysis including pointing out just who the X-factors will be for both teams. All you’ll need to know is below.
DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWN by Carlos Sandoval
Nuggets: If there’s one thing that Lakers’ fans shouldn’t be worried about against Denver, it’s their defense. Why? Because it’s pretty nonexistent. Denver lays claim to a 20th-ranked defense based on defensive rating (which is pace-adjusted) and a defense far worse (if that is even possible) if we’re talking points allowed per game. And with the personnel they roll out at the Pepsi Center, that should not surprise anyone.
Their best defender (and, honestly, my favorite player, tied with fellow Bruin and OKC point, Russell Westbrook), Arron Afflalo, is about it in terms of defensive threat. While Afflalo is a legitimate and top-tier defender, he will likely contain Kobe and funnel most of the action to the inside, forcing us to play an inside game (which is what we should be doing regardless). Javale McGee, Kosta Koufos or Timofey Mozgov are solid bigs, but nowhere in their name does the letter “D” pop up. They also suck defensively. Chris Andersen is Denver’s final source of one-on-one defense, and we know that isn’t anything to be proud of.
Lakers: Mike Brown’s uncanny ability to coach defense has not been put on display consistently throughout the season. Of course, it isn’t exactly his fault that the wings are slow on defensive rotations and that Andrew Bynum checks out pretty often.
The perimeter defense for the Lakers is optimal, save for the point, where Steve Blake gets burned routinely. The good thing is that we are not playing the Thunder just yet, and though Ty Lawson is definitely explosive, it won’t be terrible for Ramon Sessions, Kobe Bryant and Devin Ebanks (who has done alright defending the perimeter) to take turns containing Denver’s ultimate source of offensive initiation. Ideally, they should funnel Denver’s potent offense into the paint for Drew and Pau to contest any drives or baby jumpers.
The real problem LA is going to have is defending the fast-break. I am not too concerned, though, because history has shown that full-court offense does nothing in the postseason. If LA proves me wrong, then this baseless claim was forced upon me by my editor and fellow staffer. (If not, then you heard it from me first, kind of.)
Lakers: Metta World Elbow is out for the first round and Matt Barnes — a hell of a defender himself — is nursing a bum ankle. So you would think another wing, their replacement, might be the X factors in LA.
That distinction, however, belongs to Andrew Bynum, who has proven time and again that he is an elite interior defender. Problem is, he has also proven to us that he honestly is just a huge, lazy body when he doesn’t– nay, refuses to assert himself. To these eyes, he is the biggest defensive asset in the NBA … when he wants to be.
Nuggets: The X-factor on defense is anyone who is not Arron Afflalo. Seriously. Anyone outside of Afflalo playing defense would surprise the hell out of me.
Of course, for Denver to win this series, McGee and Koufos are going to need to play defense about 38 times better than they have. This is assuming, of course, that we don’t get the 2011 playoffs-version of Pau Gasol. (If he comes around, remind me to punch him in the chest, ala Phil Jackson.)
OFFENSIVE BREAKDOWN by Chris Shellcroft
Lakers: For the Lake Show it is all about taking it to the paint. The one constant in L.A.’s three regular season wins over the Nuggets was establishing Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol early. The obvious size advantage equals cheap buckets early and open looks on the perimeter late.
What the Nuggets have yet to contend with is the Kobe-Ramon backcourt. The lone time Denver played the Lakers post-Fisher was during KB24’s 7 seven game absence. That alone gives the Lakers a wildcard to play from the top of the deck. Sessions can create all kinds of matchup problems by pushing the pace. What that means for Denver is having to defend Kobe in a multitude of scenarios. Usually that makes for confusion.
Of course the Lakers will also be without Metta World Peace against the Nuggets during the series. Finding an additional offensive contributor will be key. That’s why I’m going with Matt Barnes as the Lakers’ X-factor.
Nuggets: Denver features a balanced attack. Ty Lawson leads the way but there are an additional six Nuggets that average double figures.
Let that fact marinate for a minute.
At any point in time Denver has seven players capable of getting hot and carrying the team on any given night. Al Harrington and Andre Miller alone have run laps around the Lakers bench during some of the regular season meetings.
George Karl’s open style of play creates for an infections offensive philosophy that allows his players to do what they do best on offense. Safe to say that if the Nuggets turn this into a track meet that the Lakers will be winning the silver medal in that two-man race. Trying to out run Denver is ill-advised. That is one of the biggest advantages Denver has.
Whereas the Lakers rely on one man – Ramon Sessions – to push the tempo the Nuggets have a seemingly unlimited number of options in the open court.
Still, the man that can really turn the tide for Denver is Danilo Gallinari. For whatever reason Danilo hasn’t been at his best against the Lakers so that’s why he’s my offensive X-factor for the Nuggets.
Lakers: This is all about the B’s as in Barnes and Blake. Barnes will have to play through the pain of his current ankle issue to try and continue the torrid pace he was playing at near the end of the season. Replacing Metta’s new found production has suddenly become problematic. As for Blake, we’ll just take whatever we can get from him. His production comes and goes but when it’s there it is a thing of beauty.
Nuggets: Gallinari…Gallainari…Gallinari…need I say it again? He’s been terrible against the Lakers all year so his time could be due. If he’s on the Lakers will be stretched on D and will find themselves playing from behind, a bad place to be against Denver.
Carlos: My gut says LA in 5 but my brain says LA in 6. My gut is bigger, so I’m rolling with Lakers in 5. Had Denver managed to keep Wilson Chandler healthy … nah, Lakers in 5, personnel for Denver be damned.
Having said that, it will be a tough 5 games, thanks to the Nugs’ propensity to push the ball. Denver, like all Western teams, will be a tough out.
Chris: I’m going to agree with Carlos and say six games. There is no reason why the Lakers can’t take this in five but we know how this roller coaster ride usually goes. I’m guessing the Lake Show will hit some low notes in the Mile High City but will defend homecourt.
Tags: 2012 Nba Playoffs Al Harrington Andre Miller Andrew Bynum Arron Affalo Danilo Gallinari Denver Nuggets Devin Ebanks Javale Mcgee Kobe Bryant Kosta Koufos Los Angeles Lakers Matt Barnes Metta World Peace Mike Brown Pau Gasol Ramon Sessions Russell Westbrook Steve Blake Timofey Mozgov Ty Lawson