Call me a bitter, homer Nuggets fan (and for the record, yes, I am a bitter, homer Nuggets fan). But having watched the Lakers steamroll their way through the Western Conference's second round and the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, I couldn't help but think that the Nuggets - even with Adrian Dantley at the coaching helm - would have put up a better fight than this.
It's not the Lakers fault that of seven possible Western Conference playoff opponents they drew the three best possible matchups for themselves: the inexperienced Thunder in Round 1, the beat-up Jazz - who can't beat the Lakers even when healthy - in Round 2, and the undersized Suns in Round 3. But make no mistake about it, Lakers fans everywhere - like those I spoke to when I was back in Los Angeles recently - greatly feared facing four teams this postseason: the Nuggets, Mavericks, Spurs and Trail Blazers.
Combined during the regular season, the Nuggets, Mavericks, Spurs and Blazers beat the Lakers 10 out of 16 games played, all including victories at Staples Center. The Mavericks, Spurs and Blazers in particular beat the Lakers down the stretch as the playoffs approached and had the Lakers struggling for ways to best them should another meeting arise. And, of course, those who reside in Nuggets Nation fondly remember the Nuggets spectacular road win at Los Angeles sans Carmelo Anthony midway through the seasoon.
Conversely, the Lakers had the Suns number all season long, winning three of four games during the regular season and taking the first two WCF games handily. And while I'd like to hope that that all changed tonight with a spirited Suns victory, I fear the Lakers - regardless of whom they were to face this post-season - are heading to their third consecutive NBA Finals. Mostly like after five games with the Suns.
By now you probably think I'm crazy to suggest that the Nuggets might have beaten this Lakers team. And to be clear, I'm not suggesting that whatsoever. I'm merely suggesting that our Nuggets would have put up a better fight than the Suns have thus far, and certainly would have taken two more games from Los Angeles than the Jazz (who managed to win none and were blown out in four straight) did.
But alas, as we've become all-too-accustomed in Denver (as Nate aptly pointed out in his Friday column), we get to watch NBA basketball in late May yet again with the Nuggets as a non-participant... while the Lakers continue to march on into early June.
Perhaps the Nuggets should have pretended the Jazz were wearing purple and gold so we'd have a rooting interest right now.
Photo courtesy of NBAE/Getty Images: Noah Graham