Lakers Fashion Themselves a Golden Nugget
Denver comes into the series playing very well as of late and they possess one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo round out their starting backcourt - which is a very underrated pairing as Afflalo is one of the best two-way guards in the league and Lawson has come into his own this season as the unquestioned starter when they traded Raymond Felton to the Blazers to bring back Andre Miller for backup duties. Miller's presence for this young squad provides a stabilizing and calming effect as he is one of the most efficient and efective players in the league in his minute by minute production. In order for the Nuggets to have a chance in the series, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee will need to use their youth and athleticism to counter the strength and length the Lakers have in their front-court. Faried, better known as 'Manimal', is a very capable defender and he must avoid early foul trouble in order for him to be effective in providing the necessary energy to make this a long, drawn out series. The X-factor for the Nuggets will be the play of Danilo Gallinari who has missed time this season on two separate occasions nursing injuries. His health and scoring will be under the microscope in this series as George Karl attempts to prove once again the Nuggets are better off since the trade of Carmelo Anthony.
On the flip side, the LA Lakers will be missing starting small forward in Artest (I just can't call a guy who throws that kind of elbow, and still claims it was accidental, World Peace), however they have a more than capable roster to make up for his absence. Kobe Bryant is well rested, Andrew Bynum is as healthy as he has ever been and Pau Gasol is playing great all around basketball of late. The trade for Ramon Sessions has given the Lakers a look at PG they have not had in quite some time. He allows them to run true pick and rolls/pops because he has the ability to get into the paint, cause the defense to collapse and kick out to open shooters. Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks (the presumed starter at SF) will need to come up big in this series if the Lakers are to get any production from the three spot. Especially defensively, in defending Danilo Gallinari on the perimeter. Steve Blake has extended playoff experience and will be a crucial element to the Lakers success.