Lakers Set for Game 1 vs. the Nuggets

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NBA Playoffs – Western Conference 1st Round: Game 1

It’s April 29, 2012 and the (3) Los Angeles Lakers open the first round of the Western Conference playoffs hosting the (6) Denver Nuggets. The Lakers won the 2011-2012 season series against the Nuggets (2-1), after dropping last year’s series (1-2) as well as the 2009-2010 series (1-3).

The regular season is over; the playoffs are a brand new two-month season. The Lakers and Nuggets have matched up five times in the postseason (1979, 1985, 1987, 2008 & 2009), with L.A. advancing on each occasion. The Lakers beat the Nuggets (4-2), in the 2009 Western Conference Finals. Los Angeles has won 17-of-21 postseason games against Denver, losing twice at home (9-2) and twice on the road (8-2).

Since the 1960-1961 season the Lakers have won 37-of-47 opening round playoff series and are 143-76 (.673) over that span. The Lakers are 34-13 in game one’s of the opening round series. When winning game one of opening round, the Lakers are 33-1.

The Nuggets were the league’s top scoring team (averaging 104.1 points per game), number one in assists (averaging 23.95 per game), second in the league in field goal percentage (.476). Denver is the number one transition team, ranks as the league’s best at scoring points in the paint and getting to the free throw line.

Denver has the second youngest playoff roster. The Nuggets are a team that wants to get out in transition and run. Despite being, a young team without a superstar player Andre Miller and Al Harrington provide playoff experience. Denver is a deep team with six players with a double-digit scoring average.

Nuggets shooting guard Arron Afflalo is a talented player and one of only two players on Denver’s roster that will draw the assignment of guarding Kobe Bryant. In 56 career regular season games (including 47 starts), Bryant is averaging 25 points. Kobe has scored 10+ points in a playoff game 159 times.

This series is a contrast in styles, the Nuggets want to increase the tempo and run while the Lakers want to slow the tempo and pound the ball inside to their two seven-footers. Denver does not have an answer for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. The Lakers need to establish both Bynum & Gasol in the painted area and allow them to go to work. Andrew Bynum will be a huge problem for the Nuggets on both ends of the floor.

The Lakers will win today’s game and this series by controlling the tempo, getting back in transition, doing a solid job defending the pick-and-roll play, controlling the boards and winning the points in the paint battle. Ramon Sessions has dramatically improved the Lakers pick and roll offense. The Lakers need to use solid ball movement and good player movement to find a high percentage shot.

The Lakers have to defend, take care of the ball and execute their half court offense while limiting the Nuggets to one shot per possession. The Lakers reserves have to contribute and increase their production. The Lakers will miss Metta World Peace, check that, Ron Artest’s offensive production. Ron can affect the game in so many ways with his defense, Artest active hands defensively have resulted in several steals, that element will be missed. Metta World PeaceThe Lakers can be effective against the Nuggets without Metta, but L.A. needs him for their second round opponent.

Series Prediction – Lakers in six games.

Starters
Lakers: R. Sessions, K. Bryant, D.Ebanks, P.Gasol, A. Bynum
Nuggets:
T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos 

Tip-off: 12:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: FS West (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
  • Denver: Altitude Sports & Entertainment (Chris Marlowe & Scott Hastings )

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Denver: KKFN AM 950 (Jerry Schemel & Mark Bertagnolli)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Metta World Peace (League Suspension – Game 2) Out
  • Matt Barnes (Sprained Right Ankle) Day-to-Day
  • Ramon Sessions (Sprained Left Shoulder, AC Joint) Probable
  • Devin Ebanks (Middle & Ring Finger Contusions, Left Hand) Probable

Nuggets:

  • Al Harrington (Knee) Day-to-Day
Jeff Little is the pre-game writer for LakerNation.com. Follow him on Twitter.