This will be a battle, for sure.
Denver has breezed through the playoffs with little competition. I honestly think the owner of the Mavericks gave Denver more to talk about than his team’s play, but that is for another day. During the Nuggets’ rampage through the first two rounds, I became increasingly frustrated with sports talk radio. It didn’t matter who I was listening to in the morning, I wasn’t hearing about the Nuggets and their success. Or how good they really are. I heard way too much about the Celtics and K.G. I was happy to hear that they couldn’t seal game seven at home last week. I heard from the talking heads on ESPN radio about the Lakers and how they are unstoppable and, of course, I heard way too much of the King over in Cleveland. Now that it is down to four teams and Denver is one of them, the Nuggets are finally getting some attention from the mic people in the morning. ESPN’s Mike and Mike both agreed this morning that Denver was going to take the series with L.A. in six games. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The Denver Nuggets are finally respectable enough to talk about? They are finally deemed a good team?
Those of us who have been tuned into the Nuggets full-time during the playoffs know that they are well-rounded offensively and, if they are shooting at a high percentage, they are unstoppable. They have it down low with Nene and outside with, well, just about everybody else. That, combined with the Kenyon Martin, lead-thug defense, makes Denver better than the Lakers. Not to mention the defense Melo has been playing of late has been a force.
Besides Melo’s defense, his offense has been great, even on nights that he scores in the low range of 20 or so points. When he is on the court, he must be guarded and guarded well. This leaves good-guy Chauncey Billups with wide-open three pointers. J.R. Smith has come off the bench to make a few of those as well.
The fact of the matter in Denver right now is that the Nuggets are peaking as a team and thank goodness it is in the postseason. They are better now than they were in the regular season, no doubt.
The opposite has occurred for the Lakers. I believe they peaked just at the end of the regular season. The ball movement on offense and fast-paced play Houston put on the Lakers in the last series certainly exposed a weakness of the Lakers as they had prepared to take on Yao Ming in the middle. I believe if Ming was able to play, Houston would have gone down earlier in the series. Yes, the Lakers struggled through that last series and this could be for the benefit or ill of Denver.
What I am afraid of is the notion that the Lakers had to fight a bit to win that last series. It was a dogfight in game six, in which they lost. Denver has not been in a dogfight in a while and that is exactly what this series with the Lakers is going to be: a dogfight. Nastiness at its best. I, for one, hope Karl will give the go ahead to K-Mart in this first game to get a flagrant foul and let everybody know he is there. It will be a benefit to Denver if K-Mart goes over to Bryant and, to quote Paul Newman, gets his F*^#ing elbow in his side and lets Bryant know he is there. The dogfight is on and, for once, I am going to have to agree with Mike and Mike and take the Nuggets in six in this series.
They are playing the most physical ball right now, and that – not the Lakers’ pretty-boy, Hollywood finesse – is going to win this series. Go Nugs.
A Note on the Stanley Cup Playoffs
I saw Mountain Village Town Councilmember Jonathan Greenspan gleefully walking down Telluride’s main street last week. He is a Red Wings fan and way too happy with the success of Detroit. While physical violence may not yet be warranted, a good dirty look at Greenspan would suffice during his time of glory that is becoming all too irritating. While I am stuck in Ridgway go ahead and give the traitor a nasty face and tell him Gus sent you.