The Los Angeles Lakers will play their first game — of at least two — in Denver against the Nuggets on Friday.
The first two games were pretty easy, and both were wire-to-wire wins. And in both contests, the Lakers played gorgeous basketball, even if the scores didn’t exactly match up with one another.
Blown leads in game two be damned. The Lakers, to be sure, did slack it and wound up having to actually play the starters for the end of the fourth quarter after Denver trimmed a 19-point Laker lead late in the game. The Lakers needlessly let Denver back in the game, and I’m not even mad about it, because in the end, the Lakers pulled away over and over and over again.
Of course, I expect the Nuggets to come out a little stronger in game two, but not by much. Because, and no offense to Denver fans, this Nuggets’ team pretty much hit its peak against this Lakers’ squad. The Nugs are outmatched at every position, and there’s no way in hell a few 3-pointers (ones that weren’t falling for Denver the past two games) is going to change much, especially given the fact that the perimeter defense the Lakers were employing was nothing less than legit.
The Lakers need to do what they did last night, except with keeping the gas pedal on. Because next time around, the Nuggets will be at home, and though this is the postseason, and not some regular season gimme, the Lakers are still prone to fall asleep, and don’t perform incredibly well on the road.
Catching L.A. sleeping is about the best chance Denver has, though. That’s not to say Denver can’t win this game — and L.A. can only lose it — but … well, OK, that’s what we’re saying.
Because if the Lakers casually dump off entry passes into Bynum and let him work in the post? This team won’t have an issue against Denver. Sending a double team has proven to be pretty damn ineffective when the Lakers’ perimeter shots are actually going down, and with Kobe Bryant playing out of his mind the past couple of games, while shots have been falling for some key perimeter guys, I can’t be you-know-what’ed to worry about the Nuggets in game three.
Again, of course, that’s if Denver doesn’t catch L.A. going through the motions for this game, an issue L.A. has had all season. (Rather than the team just being less talented, as some talking heads are wont to assume without actually watching the games.)
The key to this game, and probably the rest of the series, and likely for the rest of the postseason, is establishing the interior and letting Andrew Bynum work down low and wreak havoc against poor defensive bigs, or by creating space on the outside with the collapse of the defense.
And if that doesn’t work, Pau Gasol’s somewhere in the post, too, waiting for cutters so he can make gorgeous passes which initiates ball movement that spells trouble for Denver, which hasn’t been able to stop much of that ball movement, either.
Remarkably, and you won’t hear this too much in a Western Conference playoff matchup in this decade or next, but the Lakers need to do the exact same things they have been doing in the past two games, except with more conviction and consistency.
We’re not sure what kind of level the Lakers are going to want to play in Denver. It could very well be one of those games where L.A. gets complacent and just couldn’t give two (you-know-whats).
And if that happens, we’re heading back again on Sunday up only 2-1 instead of 3-0. If that’s the case, I’m going to be ticked.