The journey begins on Sunday. It’s time for the talk to cease. It’s time to see who is the best team, not only in the Western Conference, but in the NBA. 16 teams, one common goal, to hold the Larry O’Brien Trophy up in June. Followed by a Championship Parade in their perspective city, amongst all the fans that supported them throughout the year. The time is now.
The Lakers, who finished the season like a ball of fire, earning the number one season in the process, get a match up against the number eight seed Denver Nuggets. It is the first step that they must pass, if they wish to be playing basketball in June.
The Lakers dominated the Nuggets this season. Blowing them out twice at Staples Center. In Denver, they withstood a 50 point game by Allen Iverson, as they edged the Nuggets by 4 points. The Lakers hope that what happened to last year’s Dallas Mavericks team, will not happen to them.
The Nuggets have enormous amount of talent. However, they are one of the real mysteries in the NBA. With all that talent, they are still struggling to make the playoffs year in and year out. Allen Iverson, Carmelo “DUI” Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Marcus Camby can all give the Lakers match up problems at times. They are very athletic, and really understand the concept of putting the ball in the basket.
However, Denver plays absolutely no defense. This teams struggles so much no matter how many points they score, because they can’t get stops. Yes, Denver scored 168 points in a game on March 16 against the lifeless Seattle Sonics. They also allowed over 130 points in a game against the offensively challenged Detroit Pistons. Denver’s defense will be their downfall.
The Lakers are the team to beat in the Western Conference finishing with a Conference best 57-25. They won 8 out of their last 9, only slipping up in Portland. The Lakers are of course led by Kobe “The Real and True M.V.P.” Bryant, Pau “The Big Spaniard” Gasol, and Lamar “I finally realize how to play for keeps” Odom. The Lakers offense is one of the best in the game as they averaged just over 108 PPG.
However, the real key to their success late in the season was the emergence of a swarming ball hungry defense. The defense they played in the first half of the New Orleans game, and the entire San Antonio game, is the defense the Lakers are going to have to play in order to make it possible for us to have a parade down Figueroa in June.
The Lakers vs. the Nuggets also presents an interesting match up between two of the greatest players of this generation in Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant. Both have ties to Philadelphia, both are tough as nails, and both want to make it back to the NBA Finals. It will be interesting to see Kobe guard Allen Iverson in the 4th quarter a game in this series. Yes, we have seen it before, but in the playoffs, everything is that much bigger, that much better, and that much more fascinating.
Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony are two of the great talents in the league. Their greatness might propel Denver to one or two wins this series. However, it is a match up of one of the games best offenses, with the best player in the world, against one of the games worst defensives, that have no answer for anyone.
There are plenty of steps that you have to take to make the NBA Finals. It’s important to take it one game at a time, as well as one series at a time, or what happened to Dallas last year, can happen to the Lakers.
Sunday marks the beginning of the journey, I’ll be amongst the thousands of Lakers fans in attendance. It’s time for the Lakers to take the first step. The real season has begun.