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Breaking Down The Lakers Nuggets Western Conference Finals

Here’s what the Lakers-Nuggets 2008-2009 Western Conference Finals are going to look like:

Point Guards - Billups and Carter vs. Fisher, Farmar, and Brown. There’s an awful lot to like about L.A.’s trio of point guards. Brown is lightening quick, Farmar is a talented shooter and capable player, and Fisher is big, strong, and clutch. Denver’s Anthony Carter is a good game manager and a great defender, but I don’t think he’ll be able to match the point output from Brown and Farmar. Lucky for Denver, Chauncey will easily outplay Fisher. Advantage: Nuggets.

Shooting Guards - Dahntay Jones and J.R. Smith vs. Vujacic and some guy named Kobe. If the series lasts 7 games, there will be 1 game where J.R. Smith almost matches Kobe offensively - ONE. Most of the time, Kobe will double up J.R.’s scoring. When you add in Kobe’s defensive abilities and his superman powers, he wins the match-up all by himself.

Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones managed to get under Kobe’s skin a little in this series. In fact, the best thing Jones can do is figure out a way to get Kobe suspended (sounds like a crappy job). Advantage: Lakers (and it’s big).

Small Forward - Anthony and Kleiza vs. Ariza and Walton. Melo is going to use and abuse both Ariza and Walton (assuming Luke Walton will contribute) - he’s simply too strong and too quick. Melo’s opportunity to shine in this series is big - if he can carry his team the way that Kobe carries the Lakers, the Nuggets will be tough to beat. Count on Kleiza to be a no-show (Kleiza’s time as a Nugget is just about over, by the way). Advantage: Nuggets.

Power Forward - Kenyon Martin and Chris Anderson vs. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. I really like the Lamar Odom Kenyon Martin match-up when the two players are healthy, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Odom is banged up, so Kenyon’s toughness and physicality will likely make Odom a non-factor. When Kenyon spends time guarding Gasol, L.A. will benefit since Gasol is comfortable and capable of stepping out and shooting over Kenyon’s head.

Gasol’s height advantage leads me to believe that Chris Anderson will be playing a lot of minutes guarding Gasol in this series. Anderson’s energy and length really bothered Dirk Nowitzki, and you’ve got to believe he’ll be able to interfere with Gasol’s rythym. Still, it must be said that a bad game for Gasol is still a decent outing for any other player. Denver will need both K-Mart and Anderson at their best defensively if they want to have any chance of beating L.A. Advantage: Lakers.

Center - Nene vs. Bynum - Bynum’s size and athleticism will bother Nene, but Bynum’s tendency to foul will work to Nene’s strengths. If Bynum can wake up one day and be the player that he was in the regular season, L.A. has the advantage simply because they can play Gasol at PF for extended periods.

More likely, Bynum will struggle on defense, get into foul trouble, and L.A. will be forced to move Gasol to center and play Odom at PF. If this happens, Denver wins the overall matchup in the front court. Nene can almost play Gasol to a draw, and Odom will be a no-show against K-Mart. When you throw Chris Anderson into the mix, Denver ever so slightly edges out the Lakers when Bynum rides the pine. Still, if Bynum is able to stay on the floor and produce at a minimal level, Gasol moves to power forward and L.A. rolls. Advantage: Lakers (but not by much).

This series is all about Bynum. We know that Kobe will be dominant, and we know that Carmelo will be impossible for any of L.A.’s defenders to contain. We know that L.A. will likely forget to show up for a game or two, and we know that Denver is a better team defensively while L.A. is better offensively.

The question in this series is simple: Can Bynum produce? If Bynum can stay on the floor, Denver likely can’t prevail. Gasol at Power Forward is a difficult matchup for Denver that they won’t be able to compensate for. Still, Bynum riding the bench won’t mean an automatic win for the Nuggets. Nene and Chris Anderson will still need to contain Gasol while defensively as well as pressure him offensively and on the boards. That’s a tall order, but a combination of good physical defense from the Birdman and top-notch offense from Nene could put Gasol out of rhythm on offense and in foul trouble on defense.

Predictions:

  • Chris Anderson will start at least one game in this series.
  • Bynum will foul out twice.
  • Odom will loose it and earn an ejection.
  • Ditto K-Mart.
  • Ditto J.R. Smith.
  • Kobe will hit Dahntay Jones and the league will let it go.

Ultimately, I believe the Lakers win this series in 7 games. Denver’s front court isn’t deep enough to measure up against Bynum at Center and Gasol and power forward, and Kobe is killer in close games. Still, a 7 game series is close by definition. Any mis-steps by L.A. will have major implications.

Looking a little farther into the future (and assuming L.A. takes care of business), the Lakers had better watch out for Cleveland. The Cavs have the advantage in the frontcourt because of their superior defense, and Lebron vs. Kobe is simply too close to call. Home court usually wins, so you can put me down for the Cavs taking it all. It’s going to be fun!

Ballhype: hype it up!

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  1. 4 Comment(s)

  2. By Ed23 on May 18, 2009 | Reply

    Nice analysis. I wonder though, what would happen in Odom regains confidence in his jumper, which would pull Nene away from the basket and open up more scoring opportunities and offensive rebounds for the Lakers.

  3. By Ed23 on May 18, 2009 | Reply

    Corrected error:

    Nice analysis. I wonder though, what would happen if Odom regains confidence in his jumper, which would pull MARTIN away from the basket and open up more scoring opportunities and offensive rebounds for the Lakers.

  4. By JL on May 18, 2009 | Reply

    Ed23 - I think you’re 100% correct about Odom causing trouble for the Nuggets if he can step outside. Gasol is a better rebounder than Nene, so without K-Mart in the paint Denver’s rebounding disadvantage would get bigger. Of course, that’s a big “if.” Odom’s inconsistency is well documented, and I’m guessing that Denver is willing to let him shoot contested jump shots all day.

  5. By Ed23 on May 22, 2009 | Reply

    Surprise, surprise. It was actually KMart’s outside shooting that caused a problem, not to mention Kleiza’s career playoff highlight game>

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