Will the Lakers be enough to cool off the surging Nuggets?
Denver 53-26 (21-18 on the road)
L.A. Lakers 62-16 (33-5 at home)
Season Series: Lakers lead 2-1
Game 1 in Denver: Lakers win 104-97, (NuggetsPB*) November 1st
Game 2 in L.A.: Lakers win 104-90, November 21st
Game 3 in Denver: Nuggets win 90-79, February 27th
*NuggetsPB = Nuggets Pre-Billups
I don't know what to make of this game.
- Do I want Denver to win it? Of course!
- Is it a "must win?" Not by an means.
- Can Denver win in L.A.? That is a great question.
Back on November 7th Chauncey Billups played in his first game with Denver this season. The Nuggets faced the Dallas Mavericks and won the game 108-105 ... Denver then rattled off 6 more wins in 7 games including wins at Boston and at San Antonio.
From there Denver headed to Los Angeles for a big early season test against the Lakers. I remember thinking that if Denver played L.A. tough that they were truly a changed team. The Nuggets suffered a blowout loss and never really were in the game. My hopes of rooting for an elite team were dashed just a bit.
Then on November 27th the Nuggets faced the Lakers again, but this time Billups and Company were at home. The Nuggets were losers of 3 of 4 heading into that game and Nuggets Nation was feeling less than confident to say the least.
I sensed that there was a lot of doubters and felt the Nuggets sort of had their backs against the wall and you heard pretty much a month before that game that the Nuggets had circled that Laker game on their calendar. This would be their statement game.
I predicted a win for the Nuggets on that night. I even made it my ESPN Streak for the Cash pick ... going against basically 98.9% of America. Was I a genius? No. I was just sensing a good Nugget performance and trying to provide some hope for Nuggets Nation.
This go-round Denver will be back in LA-LA (not Vasquez) Land trying to even up the series against Kobe and the Lake Show.
For the Lakers it's been all about Kobe versus Denver. In the first three games Kobe is averaging 30.3 points, but only 2.3 assists. Kobe averages 27 ppg this season to go along with 4.9 assists. So, the Nuggets have been doing a pretty good job at making Kobe beat them by himself ... only problem is that it has worked for him twice.
Pau Gasol has played pretty decently against the Nuggets averaging a double-double with 15.3 ppg and 10 rebounds. I've never been really impressed with Gasol's game, but I really only see him against the Nuggets and Denver seems to defend him pretty well. Gasol can be a menace on the offensive glass however so the Nuggets will have to be active in not allowing Gasol position on the offensive end.
Lamar Odom has been the third of the Lakers three-headed monster since Andrew Bynum has been out with his torn MCL. Odom against Denver averages 11.7 points and 9 rebounds. If Odom and Gasol both record double-doubles tonight then I don't see things going well for Denver.
On the flip side the Lakers have defended Melo better than any team in the league. In his three games against L.A. Melo has scored 13, 10, and 12 points for an average of 11.7 ppg ... his lowest mark against any team. But Melo has averaged 5 assists and 8.7 rebounds showing he can help his team in other areas if they choose to smother him.
The Big 3 for Denver against the Lakers has been J.R. Smith (17.7 ppg vs. L.A.), Billups (18.5 ppg and 7.5 assists), and Nene (11.3 ppg and 5.7 rebounds). While none of those numbers really jump off the screen they have been consistent against the West's best team.
The biggest surprise in Denver's win over the Lakers was the bench play. Chris Andersen narrowly missed a triple-double with 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 blocks in their last meeting. Denver's bench outscored the Lakers bench 47-7 ... yes, by 40 freaking points. Heck, the Nuggs bench outscored the Nugget starters 47-43!
It was a tremendous team effort and Denver will have to do it again tonight if they expect to even up this series.
Pregame notes: All stats are combined from the first three games of the series
- The Lakers have outrebounded the Nuggets 149-127, including a 53-38 margin on November 1st (NuggetsPB)
- The Nuggets have "out-blocked" the Lakers 19-15, including an 11-1 margin in Denver's win on February 27th
- The Nuggets have "out-assisted" the Lakers in every game and own the series numbers at 74-54, including a 30-18 margin in Denver's loss on November 1st (NuggetsPB)
- Kenyon Martin is a game-time decision tonight, according to the Game Notes.
- Lakers starting center Andrew Bynum is expected to be back tonight after tearing his MCL on January 31st against Memphis. Bynum has only played in 46 games this season, but is having a career year averaging 14 points and 8.2 rebounds in just under 30 minutes of action. No word on if he'll start or how much he'll play, but it's important for him to get some crucial minutes before the playoffs begin.
- The Spurs, Hornets, and Jazz lost last night. I figured of the three the Hornets would win.
- The Blazers (vs. Spurs) and Mavericks (vs. Jazz) each won as I thought.
- The Rockets were idle.
- Denver now holds a 2 1/2 game lead in the race for the 2nd Seed. Complete Standings