It’s that time of the year again. Time for the NBA’s anointed to welcome the Denver Nuggets to the home of Los Angeles basketball. (10:30 ET, ESPN)
If anyone told me that the Lakers would trade Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard last year, I would have shrugged and accepted it as inevitable. Basketball has a strange way of favoring Los Angeles in that sort of way. If anyone told me they would also have Steve Nash, I would have called them foolish. If they also told me that the Lakers would have a new coach after five games this season, I would have asked if the replacement was from Mars and walked away.
Well, consider Mike D’Antoni a martian, because the Mitch Kupchak and the Lake Show have pulled it off again. This team is stacked with talent when healthy, including Dwight Howard (17.9 pts, 10.5 reb, 2.8 blk): the best coach killer the NBA has seen (See Van Gundy, Stan), Steve Nash (4.5 pts, 4.0 ast, 3.0 reb): the best point guard of his era, Kobe Bryant (27.7 pts, 4.9 ast, 5.3 reb): the fiercest competitor of the league, Pau Gasol (13.1 pts, 9.1 reb, 3.3 ast): the under-appreciated and less cuddly version of a Memphis Grizzly (see Gasol, Marc), and Metta World Peace aka The Artest formerly known as Ron-Ron. I don’t care who’s on your team, that’s a scary lineup to face. It’s like putting Jordan, Ewing, Stockton, Tim Duncan and the illegitimate love-child of Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen on the starting lineup. Apart from opposing teams dealing with the the concept of a Rodman-Pippen spawn, they’d have to deal with star quality talent on every corner of the floor. Welcome to the world of the most small market NBA teams.
Luckily for the Nuggets, Steve Nash is injured (Leg, 1 week) along with the Nugget Killer of last year: Steve Blake (Abdomen, 2 weeks). The Lakers have resorted to using Darius Morris and Chris “Crank Dat” Duhon at the point, which is the equivalent of handing a Ferrari to that kid from Up…
With that in mind… The Nuggets will still have their work cut out for them as Kobe has free reins to play hero ball to his heart’s content (1st in NBA ppg). The Lakers are coming off a loss to the Indiana Pacers and the hotstepping Joey Crawford, putting them at 7-8, behind the Clippers and Golden State in Pacific Division (the Mayans were right….). The Lakers are still adjusting to a coach switch and the acquisition of several new players, so they are understandably learning on the fly although there’s no reason that this team can’t explode for a night based on sheer talent alone. The Lakers have a new scoring threat off the bench in Antawn Jamison and might still look out of sorts until their point guards return, but the Lakers at the Staples Center with the power of Jack Nicholson will always be tough to beat.
The Nuggets are coming off a back to back against the Golden State Warriors, where they lost due to an incredible night by David Lee and the inability to draw up an inbounding play (Can we hire Coach Pop for one day just to draw up some plays?). After blowing a game by settling for jump shots and getting bogged down in the half court, the Nuggs will try to bounce back tonight. The Nuggets will have to take advantage of the Lakers’ relative lack of strength at the point. This starts with agression right off the bat, something that the 2012-2013 Nuggs seem to lose track of every three or four games. Ty Lawson and Andre Miller will need to conduct a clinic with the Lakers if the Nuggets will have a chance of leaving LA with a victory. The Nuggets will also need to address their dreadful free throw shooting, although it is tough to get calls against the Lakers, whoops, I mean, the refs always call it fair against the Lakers (sarcasm intended). But do we really want the Nuggets at the line? (.666)
This game is a matchup heaven for basketball geeks.
- Lawson and Miller against Morris & Duhon: No contest here.
- Iguodala guarding Kobe Bryant: Is Iguodala the best perimeter defender in the league? This is why Denver brought him in.
- Gallo confronting the Artest of Game sevens past: If Gallinari wants to step up, there’s no better place than against the man who shut him down last year.
- The energetic board crashing Faried vs. the drowsy, finesse “soft” Gasol: I like Gasol, but the playing styles of these two are so different, so contrasting, so damn intriguing. Tall finesse big, undersized physical forward. Let the games begin.
- Kosta “Couscous” Koufos & Javale McGee vs. Dwight Howard: Will Koufos disappear against the Lakers like last year? Which Javale shows up? The super athletic, shot-blocking, alley-ooping pterodactyl, or the lost pterodactyl on the court throwing up hook shots form the free throw line? And how much longer before Dwight decides that three coaches in three years is too little?
- Benches: Duhon, Jamison, Hill, Meeks & Ebanks vs. Miller, Brewer, Mozgov, Hamiton/Fournier. Can the Nuggets bench contain the three? Can the Lakers bench be on the court long enough to give the starters some rest? Will Mozgov foul out in ten minutes? Only time will tell… Except for Moz’s case, the answer is yes.
To the Nuggets fans, Go Nuggets!
To Lakers fans, I appreciate you getting to this point and putting up with my disdain of you team, please come again.
In honor of Joey Crawford: