Should Lakers Purposely Extend Series?
Well, we can attack this question from two vantage points:
1) The danger in doing that is simple: If you allow a team to gain any kind of momentum, anything can happen. History is on the Lakers side, however, as they have gone up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series 43 times and prevailed in 42 of those. With the length of Bynum and Gasol down low, the Nuggets have yet to find a solution defensively, having gone with Kosta Koufus as their starting center in both games. The Nuggets exposed the Lakers in Game 2 on the break and may have created a blueprint to defeat them. If you run on the Lakers on a made or missed bucket, or better yet a turnover, they are too slow to play effective transition defense. Denver would have taken Game 2 if they were able to knock down open outside shots. Arron Aflalo, normally a reliable threat, has been unable to find the bottom of the net with any regularity. A return to the Pepsi Center, however, may have a positive effect on the Nuggets and given breathing room, they will take a game or two to climb right back into the series.
2) If the Lakers continue to keep the pressure on and potentially sweep the Nuggets, they will be without Artest for the first two games of a crucial series with a Thunder team they have had serious issues with this season. Without RonMetta out there to defend Kevin Durant in round two, the Lakers may find themselves in an early hole next round. Looking ahead in the playoffs has its disadvantages, but there isn't anyone who truly believes the Nuggets can take 4 out of the next 5 from the Lakers, thus proving they will be present in the second round. In order for the Lakers to be successful and make a deep postseason run, ArtestPeace will need to revert back to his old playing days and be a legitimate threat on both ends of the court. Without him for any amount of time in the second round, the Lakers will not have the perimeter defensive presence they need to succeed. So, what's the harm in allowing the Nuggets to win a game or even two?
If any team knows how to handle adversity or playoff games, it will be the one with Kobe Bryant on it. He has more playoff experience than the entire Nuggets team combined. He is third on the all-time playoff scoring list. He owns five championship rings. He knows how to win games. He has a magically reconstructed knee and feels better than he has in a few years at age 33. He was a mere 0.1 points behind Durant for the scoring title this season. But does he know how to purposefully lose games to allow for his starting small forward to return next round? that remains to be seen. Devin Ebanks has shown quite nicely in the first two games, but the Thunder are a different team than the Nuggets. The pressure will be heightened and the Lakers require RonMetta's presence to advance beyond the second round.
The question doesn't lie in how the Lakers should approach the remainder of this series, but how they should monitor their approach to the remainder of the postseason - there are bigger fish to fry than the Denver Nuggets, and the Lakers realize they need Ron Artest to accomplish their goals. Don't be surprised if Game 3 goes to the Nuggets, if only to make it so Artest would only miss Game 1 of Round 2. Rest assured this is part of Mike Brown's and the Lakers' psyche. I'm placing my bet on Denver tonight - be smart and do the same.